Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The new year has come and gone and I did nothing for it besides consume an entire cinnamon babka (over the course of a few days). I am not a religious person, nor was Alan - I think we both considered ourselves spiritual but not observant. Respectful of history and culture but that was the extent of our feelings. In fact I remember Alan saying one year that he had nothing to be forgiven for - and he didn't. He was the consummate good person. Flawless, no, but a genuinely fine human being - so as he gracefully handled the constant challenges to his body and spirit, I understood his attitude. As a friend said to me at one point, "it's someone else's turn". And it was. Disease does not discriminate, and when you face such unrelenting onslaught - faith feels pointless and it's promise, dishonest. Alan would say at times that he felt like he was walking into the wind and this month, for me, felt like that as well. A month that at one time celebrated the moment when we first met, and later our wedding, now marks anniversaries we cannot commemorate - so I am happy when certain dates come and go. Every day I reflect on what we had, and thank Alan for Lily, our most beautiful memento. But the grief continues and September felt particularly cruel. The seasons are changing and that means time passing. Time passing without him.

But I know Alan has been looking after us. Over the past few months he has graced us with whispers and music and signs. One day Lily and I watched as a young tattooed dad sat on our bench and played the guitar to his baby girl. Some mornings Lily and I, from our bench, have seen a woman jog by with a T-shirt saying "I (sign) A.R.". In California when I told someone my baby's name was Lily she smiled and said "Oh, that's my name". I said "Oh you're Lily?", she replied, "No, Susan. Its Hebrew translation is Lily." I looked it up and sure enough, it is. Alan chose her name and perhaps he wasn't aware of the connection - but to me it is fatefully serendipitous. And the other day when I was on hold, having a particularly low moment, on came "Midnight Train to Georgia". Many, many afternoons I sat alongside Alan on the bed as he played it on the guitar and cued me in on back-up vocals. It was his one request at our wedding - and oh how he smiled as he sang it with our friends, all crowded behind mics shared with the band. When he was happy I was over the moon, because Alan deserved to let go and relish in unfettered joy. Seeing that was beautiful. Tonight I playfully argued with him over Mardi-Gras beads Lily was chewing on. They typically hang over a portrait he made of his beloved Bulldog, Duncan, and Lily has taken to patting Duncan's photo and going for the beads. I cherish the moment while I worry about plastic, peeling, paint-coated beads made in toxic places. Alan whispered, "Oh Snooze, let her have 'em." We compromised. She gets a few chews and hums, and then they are gently pried from her grip and lovingly returned to Duncan's shrine. And then we tell Duncan to lick Alan for us and tell him we love him and think of him all the time. All the time.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I have never written this early in the day but as it happens, my DAUGHTER IS NAPPING IN HER CRIB. So I have some "extra" time. It is miraculous, and comes on the heel of yesterday's nap of epic proportions lasting 2 and a half hours. I was concerned that Lily might feel after yesterday's feat that she had rollover minutes to apply for the next couple of months. Miraculously, she is commanding a repeat performance. I am currently celebrating by eating breakfast. Not only that, I am eating my breakfast in s l o w m o t i o n. One skill that comes quickly to new moms is the ability to "shove it in" - eating at lightening speed. Yes, unglamorous sounding, but when you are constantly preventing your child from grabbing spoons, shredding menus, chewing table edges, sucking napkins and consoling back-arching restless babes there is no rest, nor time for leisurely meals. Eggs and toast. And tea. I even browsed a couple of catalogs. I feel rested just knowing Lily is asleep. Must now pay bills, find work (out of the home, that is), do filing, laundry, and write thank-you notes. But can't do laundry, can't go through room to get it. Baby sleeping. Can't file, drawers in same room. Baby sleeping. Can't shower, bathroom connected to bedroom. Baby sleeping. Will do when she awakens, bright-eyed and smiling. Mom's are experts at the two-minute shower and getting out the door quickly. Mama minutes are equivalent to dog-years - a quarter of an hour equals at least two hours in real time. Amazing what one can do in an hour... when there is hands-free peace and quiet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Squa, squa, squa, SQUARE!

Currently Lily is often drunk with sleep deprivation but she wears it well. She continues to giggle, stagger as she stands, sit up with impressive posture, bang on the piano with her foot, lounge comfortably in the stroller, legs lazily draped over the bar and eat mashed food artfully. I on the other hand teeter between anxiety and amusement, exhaustion and loneliness, and fantasize about naps, showers and going to a movie. I ran into an acquaintance the other day, in a moment when I could hardly keep the tears at bay. It had been a difficult week and that morning I was particularly tapped - I was caught off-guard, twice, by two different songs, one at home and one in a restaurant. They played out of nowhere and left me raw and exposed. One minute I'm eating lunch, the next, subtly and self-consciously brushing tears from my face, feeling more and more isolated by the journey I've been on. The world rushes by, the tears go unnoticed. At times I cannot bear to let the emotion take me any further, the pain is almost paralyzing. Thankfully if I focus on Lily, waiting for me at home, I can pull myself out of the despair. "Yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got apples in my tummy!" Within seconds I'm back in the land of the living, singing over and over and O V E R again a line from one of her robotically cheery toys - that she activates unwittingly every few seconds to the extent that it stutters. Yummy, yummy - Yum - Yummy yu - Yummy yummy I've got... frequently we never get through the whole line, and it doesn't phase her in the least. I on the other hand am on the verge of mama-insanity and then all of a sudden "Sq, sq, SQUARE! I'm a blue, I'm a blue square!".
My day continues.
Ahhh... Motherhood.
I recently realized I neglected to rinse the conditioner out of my hair, a friend told me she discovered her shirt was on inside out after picking up her child who's shirt was on backwards, and another is struggling with memory lapses and frequently repeats parenting anecdotes. The other night I was pumping (breast milk that is) only to discover that the delayed feeling of warmth on my leg was the bottle overflowing. I cleaned it up only to find myself, minutes later sitting on the wet cloth I had used to clean the milk off the sofa. At times I find myself laughing so hard the tears start flowing. Those are good tears. Delirious, belly shaking laughter and tears that I know Alan would find amusing. We often laughed together and he loved my sometimes silent, bowled over hysterics which in turn, had him panting with glee. Lily has her own laughing pant and it too can be silent - Like mother like father like daughter. Luckily for me the dark moments are balanced with levity that is whimsical and mind numbing, heart warming and life-affirming.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sleep Baby Sleep.

There is nothing better, as an exhausted parent, than feeling a baby slumped on your shoulder, heavy with sleep. There is certainly beauty and joy that comes with holding a baby in your arms, hearing their babble, and feeling them kiss your cheek which, as of now, consists of a large open mouth that drools and energetically clenches your cheekbone with glee - but when you're feeling especially sleep deprived and desperate for some sense of reliable schedule, nothing beats the peacefulness that accompanies their rest. Since our voyage out West, Lily has fallen into a mercurial sleep pattern, which succinctly can be described as having no pattern at all. Or regularity. I texted a friend the other day who was also trying to get his babe to sleep and asked if nine minutes counted as a nap. "Yes" he replied, "if you're a hummingbird". Sadly, and happily, Lily is not. Days later, just when I think we're back in stride she's willful in her determination not to sleep or fitful as she does. As a parent, it is a test. Of sanity, and will. It feels like quicksand, laden with fears that out of desperation your "dynamic, soon-to-be self-sufficient" infant will become your bed partner for life, eternally parked at the milk truck, or spread out comfortably next to you, hand grazing some part of your body that you now cannot move. Last night I armed myself with a bottle of wine and a pound cake, prepared to indulge as I let the newest love of my life cry it out in the other room with my set limit of 20 - 40 minutes depending on my inner strength of the moment. It is torture hearing your baby scream, during which feelings of guilt, and fears of forever scarring your child take hold. You try to rationalize soothing them in order to help them form healthy relationships further down the line, or take comfort in the idea that leaving them distraught helps shape them into self-sufficient beings. Both options seem unacceptable, and sometimes coming in briefly to quietly calm them results in a burp worthy of a bar stool or calms them enough to help them get back to sleep on their own. If you do not go in, you envision them stuck in a position they cannot get out of, hyperventilating with sobs, or terrified, waking from a nightmare. Last night I ended up with a five minute interruption and the rest of the evening was golden.
I still had the wine and pound cake.
Earlier this evening armed with yet another backup plan I found myself walking around the apartment during twilight hours with a small bunny between my breasts, yes, a bunny - in my bra, hoping that my scent would rub off on Lily's friend to help ease her into sleep. As it happens, so far this evening the bunny, Bunny, has not been called to duty but he is in the crib with her, on deck if need be.

I need to work on my lullabies but I do remember a Simpsons episode where "Rock-a-bye Baby" was illustrated and the lyrics paint images that are anything but soothing - a bough breaks, the cradle falls, down comes baby.
Maybe not.
While Lily has her pre-bed aperitif I often find myself - beyond tired - nodding off, and in between nods I tell her how her dad was an enthusiastic nap taker. She needs convincing. But today was a long one for her that began with music class and ended with some dreamy Aretha in our room now evocatively lit like a bordello. So I am hoping, praying, that all of the activity will keep her deeply asleep throughout the night. Deeply asleep, deeply asleep.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Under Water.

It is surreal to be preparing baby food for breakfast in the kitchen, hearing Lily's playful noises in the background, while simultaneously contemplating Alan's final days in hospice. I often find myself in absolute disbelief over what has happened. One moment I'm marveling at a photo from our honeymoon, wondering if it all had just been a dream - a distant memory that maybe never happened, and the next moment I'm replaying detailed medical procedures and conversations while stark images crowd my mind. I am lonely in a way that I suspect I will always be, and I often find myself floating through days viewing the world through Lily's eyes only. Much of the world I don't care to see. A widowed friend asked me the other day if I had seen an article about cancer drugs and the inability of pharmaceutical companies to do anything but prolong a life by mere days and I could only reply that yes, I had seen the headline, but had had no interest in reading the article. And that is how I have been for months, detached from most things that reflect sadness, inefficiency, faltering policies. I have no room for it in my heart, nor my mind, and when I must engage in conversation that encompasses subjects such as those, I do, but I check out. I switch to autopilot, I can't even say I'm conscious of what comes out - and I'm not sure where what I do say, comes from. And being unemployed as a single parent has left me with little outside stimulation. Traveling was good, it put me in social situations, I even got to an aquarium, but I still feel as though I'm in a haze and I wonder if the fog will ever lift.

My routine is built around Lily and I now find joy, as she does, in the simplest pleasures whether it's making funny noises, dancing or reading a board book. Sometimes I wonder halfheartedly if my brain is shrinking - but my other mom friends assure me that their worlds too, are currently "limited in scope". Much of it is a welcome distraction, and while it is daunting to have the responsibility of raising a child, for the time being (knock wood) three minute showers, five minute meals, and meditating on a blade of grass suit me just fine. I find humor in the mundane - the way Lily looks when she takes a sip of water is a mix of confusion, suspicion and near disgust. When I pick her up at night to comfort her, it is she that is now patting my back. I delight in her spontaneous screeches and bouts of surprise panting excitement, and she bowls me over with X-ray stares that hold my undivided attention. I love to watch her lean out of the stroller, watching shadows and the wheels as they cover ground, and I envy the ease with which she relaxes - legs kicked up on the stroller bar, one flopped over the side. Thankfully when she's nursing just as my thoughts begin traveling to the darker corners of my mind, I spot potato behind her ears and then flecks of it in her eyebrows. Lily brings me back to a safer place, and though she is the one in my arms, I feel as though I am in hers.