"Fourteen," the mother replied wearily, adding flatly, "She was MUCH cuter when she was four."
I had to pick my jaw up from the floor -- not only the fact that her daughter was really 14 (!!) -- but also that she was the same age that MY daughter would be right now. How had I forgotten that? Or did I just block that part out?
It will soon be 15 years since I held that wee white bundle in my arms, kissed the tip of my finger, pressed it to her cold, red forehead and whispered goodbye. She would have turned 15 in November. She would be in high school now, Grade 10 (gulp) this fall. No doubt (as my colleague wearily alluded) she would be driving her father & I crazy right now. (Dh, of course, insists that she'd be perfect.)(Not only perfect -- in his mind, she's a genius and already attending university. Sure, honey, whatever you say... ) ; )
It's a daunting prospect. I have to admit, I am having a harder time envisioning her these days, what she'd be like. Maybe I don't WANT to think about it, lol.
Grief is my constant companion, but far less intrusive these days. It rises to the surface now & then -- certain dates, a sad TV show, some visits to the cemetery (but not others). When my 7-months-pregnant coworker lost her baby earlier this spring, it was like a sucker-punch to the gut.
Grief these days is a thin veil of sadness, of world-weariness, that envelops my experience. Most days, the veil is gossamer thin, but there are still times when it wraps itself around me so thickly I find it hard to breathe. I wonder sometimes if it's grief, or age, or a bit of both that I'm dealing with these days? Sometimes it's hard to separate the two. After all, grief comes to all of us, eventually -- if not the loss of a child, the loss of a parent or grandparent or someone else we love, the end of an era, the loss of a dream. Some of us become acquainted with grief sooner rather than later. The longer we live, the more intimately acquainted with it we become. And each loss, each brush with grief, forever alters the lens through which we see the world.
There are many days when I still feel like I'm 20. But there are also days -- more & more of them, lately -- when I feel every bit of my 52 years -- physically, mentally, emotionally. (Even though Aunt Flo continues to visit me with maddening regularity.)
I am surrounded by reminders that I am no longer 20 -- that the fertility boat has long since sailed without me. One of my high school classmates became a grandmother last year, and celebrated her daughter's wedding in Mexico this spring. Another high school classmate's daughter is getting married next month. Another, who got married the same year I did and whose two daughters are now in university, recently announced her forthcoming divorce, after 27 years of marriage. Another lost her mother a few months ago.
We have four summer students this year, on top of the many 20 & 30-somethings in my office. One coworker got married last year, got a puppy & just bought a house. I am waiting for the pregnancy announcement any day now. :p Two are bridesmaids in friends' weddings, so I get to hear endless discussions about dress shopping and bachelorette party planning. One new dad is leaving soon on six months paternal leave; another dad is expecting his second child any day now.
As I write this, in a cubicle near mine, there is a group of young coworkers gathered around the computer, oohing & ahhhing over photos of one girl's best friend's brand new baby. Grandma Coworker -- closer to my age than theirs, but a mother & grandmother -- is reminiscing about what it was like when her own daughter was born, and advising what kind of present to take to the hospital. The younger girls are giggling and sighing in awe and anticipation of the day when they too will become mothers. When, not if. And who am I to rain on their parade?
I sit quietly in my cubicle. I do not cry -- but I wince.
I have a good life today, despite stillbirth and infertility. But that doesn't mean I have forgotten, or wonder about the life I might have had. I still sometimes wistfully glance down the road not taken.
The words of a lovely old Gershwin song, as sung by the immortal Ella Fitzgerald, echo in my head (especially the first two and last three lines):
They’re writing songs of love - but not for me
A lucky star’s above - but not for me
With love to lead the way
I’ve found more clouds of gray
Than any Russian play could guarantee
I was a fool to fall - and get that way
Hi ho alas and also lackaday
Although I can’t dismiss
The memory of his kiss
I guess he’s not for me
Right Where I Am 2012
Right Where I Am 2011
For more "Right Where I Am" posts, about what grief looks like with the passage of time, visit Angie's blog.