Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Firsts.

Lily is now six months old and with that milestone has come a slew of "firsts". She just took her first flights to the West Coast, she has begun sitting up (with the occasional sway, sag and plunge), she says mamamamamama, and dadada, she can expertly put her left foot in her mouth and the other day just as I picked up a bottle of Alan's preferred red wine she clapped. With every first it's incredible - they're moments that mark the culmination of weeks of attempts; erratic hand movements, elusive feet, and sounds without such specificity. I was truly overjoyed when she clapped, as I do it frequently when we listen to music and she has studied the movement intently for over a month but only observed. Occasionally I'd see her hands flex open and closed as she watched me do it but that was it. You can see the wheels turning when she fixates on something, so to see the final connection made was awesome. I was ecstatic and with that came the moment that I always dreamt about - being able to share it with Alan. Thankfully I was able to share it with family and a close friend who I knew would appreciate it but I became one of those mothers that wanted to show every passerby Lily's feat, and the ache of not having Alan to witness it made coming home to New York that much harder. She is truly developing into a little person - she is full of smiles and happy screeches, she kicks her legs with excitement over everything from seeing a dog to her reflection in the mirror. Her once peaceful nights have turned into teenage revolts and I am hoping, praying that that is a travel adjustment, but in this respect I could really use Alan. Parenting is hard. It requires infinite patience, resolve, hope, energy and a strong lower back. I miss Alan when I am exhausted at night, calming a wakeful Lily at 2am. I miss him when she cries for me when I leave the room for a moment - a new development which I hope will be short lived, I miss him when she hums with satisfaction contemplating a spoonful of food, I long for him when I see her smiling face peering at me from the crib at 5am. I hope he can see her delight as she peers at herself in the little mirror on her Excersaucer, that he can hear her squealed greetings when I hand her her piggy or her monkey chimp, that he can see her twirl her wrist with spoon in hand and then listlessly let it drop to the floor with her eyes on me as she does so. She is now connecting with objects and people - her discoveries are beautiful to watch. She acts with intention. I have seen her come out of a nightmare, and I recently heard a giggle as she slept. And she is ticklish.

One of the nicest things about traveling and staying with others was that I could show them Lily sleeping every night, I could share my obsession with my girl and they'd dote on her as well. They could see Lily in moments that only Alan would have experienced with us - late night sighs and her sweet sleeping silhouette, active early mornings and animated bath times. It is a joy for me to be with others who can appreciate such moments even if their enthusiasm is merely meant as support for me ~ It is love all the same. Coming home was difficult. Having our trip to look forward to was a comfort, returning to our home so wishing that Alan would be here to greet us was a challenge. He would have been so proud of our journey together. I dreamt about him the other night, the three of us in bed together, Lily in the middle. As I took Lily along side of me when she awoke shortly after, I whispered to her that in my dream we had been a family. But then I corrected myself because I know deep down that we have just enough and whispered again, that the two of us were a family as well - and feeling her sleeping next to me, I know it to be true .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Girl.

Lily and I are on our first adventure together. We are on the West Coast visiting family and friends and with every hour I feel more and more as though she were an extension of me, I feel so deeply connected to her. She is a very special, unique being and as I ease into parenthood I find that my new role, my purpose in life is to be her mother, her roots, her rock - I now fully understand the concept of guardian. The responsibility of being a parent is awesome, and with that come the fears, worries and even more vulnerability. I found myself on the way to the airport emailing my brother with last minute wishes for Lily should something happen to me. Neurotic I know, but I have already lost the person most precious to me in my entire life - so the thought of this beautiful piece of my heart, our hearts, without either one of us, is haunting. Even when I just need someone to watch her I know the general thought is "come on, she's safe, she'll be fine, worst thing that will happen is that she'll get upset and cry" but that's not the worst thing - I have lived through one of "the worst things" so I know that it does happen, hence my fears loom large. Experiencing separation from Lily whether it be with a relative or babysitter is a tremendous challenge and while factors such as trust and safety are of the utmost importance, the anxiety stems from something much deeper - she is mine, and I am hers and our mother-child bond feels primal. So for me, boarding a plane with her in my arms feels much greater than a taxi ride, and leaving her with someone else is an emotional test of almost herculean proportions.

For months after Alan passed away, before she was born, and now the months after, I've struggled with my identity. I read often on one of the widow "boards" about how people have lost their sense of self upon losing their partner and I too, feel as though the "old me" is forever gone. When I lost Alan, I felt as though much of me went with him ~ and I know he'd hate to hear that, to witness it, but when you are so entwined with another soul - regardless of your independence - the loss kills much of the spirit within; death deadens. It numbs. It leaves you feeling disoriented and I too mourn my loss of self. Thankfully, Lily has given me purpose, and it is her spirit that has begun to bring me back to life. Despite the fact that we're together nearly everyday, I have gotten to know her even better as my travelling companion. The flight attendants could learn much from her - she is patient, full of smiles, is nice to everyone and her obliviousness to unpleasantness around her is admirable. Her glee is infectious and more and more she embraces unfamiliar faces with an openness that dissipates with age. Lily is a sponge and absorbs everything around her. She entertains herself with lights, TVs, music and sounds. She is fascinated by older children, she squeals when dogs brush along side of us. She turns her face into the breeze, she grabs at leaves, she splashes in the tub with reckless abandon. For all of the sadness I have inside, I now have equal parts happiness. The way she brightens my life is staggering, and I am OK with being Lily's mom while I try to grasp at parts of me that have seemingly faded. Like other widows and widowers, I still care little for reading the paper and watching the news; events that once triggered emotive responses still don't move me, there is much I no longer care about. But as we make the rounds out West, reconnecting with family and friends and introducing her to many who have, until now, loved her from afar, I feel as though despite my ungrounded sense of self, she has proven to be my new anchor. So as we forge ahead together, Lily's life new with every morning and mine exploring unchartered territory I am grateful to have her by my side and am glad for her that she has me to dote on her and to love her with all of my heart.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Coney Island

Some of the last photos that Alan took were of Coney Island. It was a bright, dry day in January, the streets were quiet but the signage and lights managed to evoke the summer soundtrack of rides, eighties music, screams, laughs and barkers. Coney Island is particularly special in the off-season - its lore is easier to imagine, the trash is limp in the gutter, its peacefulness enhanced by the empty beaches, its lonely streets asleep except for the occasional passerby. He did manage to capture a man surreptitiously rounding a corner with a large bag from Nathan's, I have a feeling Alan headed there shortly after. He loved Coney Island and I can just see and hear him driving out there on a winter day - perhaps he had had the day off for appointments, I don't remember him going - but I can picture him getting into our hand-me-down car, talk radio or classic rock on, sunflower seeds in one hand, a Dr. Pepper in the other. He was always the one behind the wheel and I got a kick out of Alan driving because it was one of the rare instances (aside from Yankee games) in which his "Brooklyn-ness" came out - he swore at other drivers, a hint of an accent coming out and he could get really pissed when others got in the way. I have to say it gave me a bit of a thrill - my gentle man, yelling unpleasantries at poor old ladies and having no patience for out of town drivers. It gave me such a laugh, he was sheer entertainment and it was a great surprise to see sides of Alan that only came out on occasion. I'm not sure he knew how people sometimes waited with curiousity or baited breath to hear what he had to say and when what came out was some rude "Come Onnnnnnn..... jackass...." it was hilarious, it was scary, it would actually shut me up on occasion. I loved it. I love him. Always.

It was startling finding the photos on his camera, again, something I hadn't known - or maybe I did and I forgot. Regardless, "after-the-fact" mementos are gifts; haunting at times, but a gift - to see the world through his eyes. The DVR still records some of his shows - American Masters, Iconoclasts, 30 Rock, The Office and I can't cancel them. I watch some and erase what I know he wouldn't want. But it is hard. It is such a comfort to see his actions continue.

Last weekend Lily and I went with friends to Coney Island. The first time we went was on Alan's anniversary, so she is a vet now. It was a steamy warm day full of crowds, hotdogs and trash. And it was wonderful. Lily took in the sights and sounds and smells - everything new to her eyes and yet so familiar to Alan's. My friends asked if I wanted to go on The Cyclone and I declined. The last time I rode it it was springtime and Alan was in the hospital. He had urged me to go on a bachelorette party excursion for a dear friend - Alan hated feeling as though he was ever holding me back and yet it was torture for me to ever leave him. I went, rode the roller-coaster and that decision too was difficult. My worries and "what ifs" were taking over at that point and my fear of something going wrong on the ride with Alan where he was, were a force to be reckoned with. I went on it, a three minute electrifying distraction, but that was the last time. This time around I have a giggling 14.5 lb love that replaces my worries of last year - and as neurotic as it sounds, I am her only parent. And I experience that often, decisions feel weightier, responsibilities more daunting without a co-pilot to confer with, to share my concerns. What I would give to be able to go out for an evening with Alan and we could ask each other every ten minutes if we thought Lily was OK. Alan would say "What do you think she's doing?" and we'd both want to go home to look at her, watch her while she sleeps. So this time at The Cyclone I declined. When Lily Alan wants to go on it she can - and I'll look on from the sidelines, a nervous wreck, praying that Alan's got her in his sights.