Friday, December 23, 2011

The penguin sweater

Tonight we went to Target to finish up a few holiday purchases. I wasn't expecting it, and there it was. It had been missing the last few times we'd been shopping but someone had replaced it and it was staring at my husband and I like it had been put there just for us, to mock us.

 "Damn it," said my husband, under his breath. See, we both know, that Jonah would have worn that sweater. It would have been part of his Christmas outfit. I can just see him in it, with little black pants or tiny baby jeans. He would have had little glasses by now, he may have worn an earflap hat, and he definitely would have been kicking his socks off. I can almost feel his warm little body snuggled up in the fabric.

I made it through the rest of the shopping trip not realizing how affected I had been by this stupid sweater. I was getting my other kids in the car when it hit me like a slap across the face. Our minivan has an extra seat now. It has an extra seat because Jonah's not in it. I started to cry. An empty sweater, an empty seat.

We made another stop on the way home and while my husband was in the store I decided at my own risk to go through the pictures on my phone. There are many of Jonah. It's hard to look at pictures of him chronologically backward as he progresses from a very delayed child to a perfectly healthy newborn. The hardest part of all is seeing his beautiful face and it feeling almost like a dream. Losing him, there's been a paradox where he feels so close and yet so far. He looks so familiar, so tangible, but he doesn't feel like mine anymore. It feels like just yesterday I held him, but also like a lifetime ago. I cried harder. An empty heart.

My daughters asked why I was sad. I told them what I always tell them, that I am missing Jonah, and I added that I wish Jonah could be here for Christmas with us. I don't remember which one tried to comfort me by saying maybe Jonah could come home after Christmas. It's exhausting to remind them over and over again that he is never coming home. They are beginning to understand. Explaining loss to toddlers and preschoolers is another post entirely.

I pulled myself together, and when we got home I put the kids to bed. My husband and I watched a bit of White Christmas. He commented that it must be hard to be deployed away from your family. I replied that, in a way, we are. We are deployed and Jonah is home. We are longing for home and longing for him. I am happy for Jonah and sad for us.

Tomorrow afternoon I will go to Mass with my family and wrangle my little ones. I will sing and pray and likely cry. I will celebrate the birth of a baby boy when I am longing for my baby boy. I will go spend time with family when I wish I was showing off my sweet little guy at the charming age of 9 months in his darling penguin sweater and new glasses.

I will remind myself of the work God has done in my life in the past two months, of how far I have come, of how well I have been used. I might lose it if I have to sing or hear "Silent Night."

I will remember all those who are struggling with grief this season. I will give thanks for my blessings.

I will celebrate. I will cry. I will pray. I will remind myself that all longing is really a longing for Christ.

I'm not mad at you, penguin sweater. You're adorable. I just miss my baby.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A day in the life

Yesterday was Saturday and we had big plans. In fact we had many different fun events on our calendar from which to choose. We were going to go to my husband's work to have breakfast with Santa, then dance class, then maybe the grocery, and then there was something else on the calendar that I couldn't remember. We had been talking up the work breakfast with Santa all week and the girls were super duper excited.

Of course when we have nothing to do (M-F) around 7:45 am I have two little girls jumping on my bed and asking for breakfast and if it is Christmas yet. On Saturday morning, they slept in. So a showered and dressed husband and I were leisurely getting things ready to go to the car, sippy cups, dance class things, etc. Finally the girls got up and it's a little later than we had hoped. so we decided our son would miss his dance class (a half hour mommy and me class) in favor of breakfast with Santa.

We got the kids dressed and we got into the car. Then, my husband asked me, "Do you have the tickets?" I did not even know this event required tickets. I knew hubby had paid and made reservations for us but as far as physical tickets I had no clue. He told me he had pinned them to the bulletin board. I assured him I wouldn't have done anything with them and that I had not even seen them. He looked for a while, then I went inside to look. We were already running late and the clock was ticking. I went inside and as soon as I looked at the bulletin board my stomach sunk. I had thrown away what I THOUGHT were the tickets to a beer and wine tasting our church was having a couple weeks ago. I hadn't even looked at them. I knew the awfulness of what I had done so I rushed upstairs to the computer to figure out a plan B. I knew the autism support group was having a Breakfast with Santa that morning as well. I made sure we would make it before it was over and I scribbled down the address.

I jumped in the car, mad at myself and told hubby that I had thrown the tickets away but that we had another Breakfast with Santa. The kids were getting restless. The girls were chattering on about Santa and breakfast and Santa being at Daddy's work. I told them that Santa was not going to be at Daddy's work after all but was going to be at a church now, where the support group was having their shindig. They reluctantly agreed to the change of plans and we hightailed it to the 2nd Breakfast with Santa.

This Breakfast with Santa was scheduled to last until 11 and we got there around 10:40. We were greeted by a very nice lady elf who told us that they thought everyone had already seen Santa and so they let him go home. Thankfully the people there were just lovely. The elf played with my kids, they offered us breakfast even though we were incredibly late and didn't get to RSVP AND we were allowed to go on a horse and carriage ride around the parking lot even though we had not made arrangements in advance. I was pretty impressed with this group and I can't wait to get more involved.

So the girls were still upset that they hadn't seen Santa. My husband ran to grab some bagels for a quick breakfast (it was 11:45 by now) and I told the girls I'd call Santa. Santa told me he would be at the zoo that evening so I decided we would plan on that. The festivities at the zoo didn't start until 5pm.

After the girls had dance class, we decided to go for a drive. Hubby and I have been thinking of moving to a more walkable area so we drove around and looked at the outsides of some houses. It was getting close to 2. The kids were hungry and the girls wanted grilled cheese. Hubby started to pull into the Steak N Shake. My oldest got all excited but I didn't really want to eat in the car. I suggested we go to this quaint diner place with ice cream and have lunch there. Hubby agreed so we pulled away from the Steak N Shake which caused a slight meltdown. The theme of this day so far is that I am NOT getting the Mom of the Year award!

When we got to the Cow Palace (yes the restaurant is really called that) we waited what seemed like forever. My son wallered all over me like a fish out of water and we sat there waiting to be seated when finally one of the waitresses told us we could go ahead and sit down.

Lunch was great. The girls ate grilled cheese and fries. My son drank about 3 cups of milk. It was a special fun treat day so we got dessert. This place has clown cones, which the girls were JAZZED about. One wanted pink and the other one wanted green. My son got a plain banana. We had a fun time. At one point my hubby got up from the table and he accidentally knocked over his chair. My oldest daughter immediately responded with  "WAH, WAH, WAH' like the losing sound on a game show. We thought this was pretty funny. I took the girls to the potty, we all went potty, washed our hands and dried them. The girls were clean and I was basking in my success until I saw them both LAY DOWN on the bathroom floor. GROSS!

We ran home to grab our camera (with a dead battery) and headed to the zoo, which was more crowded than I have seen it in my 30 years of life in this town. Although we had to wait in line for what seemed like FOREVER we got to see a very nice Santa who spent plenty of time attentively listening to my oldest's very specific list and even gave the girls an extra candy cane for me. Sweet!

We realized after we got home that the thing we had forgotten on the calendar was the moms' group get together from our church. I was disappointed that I'd missed it, but I'd had a fun day nonetheless. It was nice to just spend the day enjoying the company of my family.

Despite the detours, we had a great day. We laughed a lot. There were some sad moments. In the Santa line it seemed like I was surrounded by baby boys. For a minute I thought I wouldn't be able to stand it and then I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and focused on my girls having fun seeing Santa. The other sad thing was that I kept imagining how much Jonah would have enjoyed looking at all the lights. It would have been so visually stimulating for him and it would have been amazing to watch him take it in, wide eyed. Before his glaucoma surgery he barely opened his eyes at all, but afterwards he opened them often. I would have loved to share all of this with him. I miss my little guy so much. I have been praying every day that God would restore some joy and laughter into our lives and I am so grateful that He has. I honestly wasn't sure what life would be like after Jonah's death. Although we have suffered an immeasurably painful loss, I can honestly say that life is sad and bittersweet, but happy too. Life is good and God is good.

I ask for your continued prayers and words of encouragement as we navigate the Holiday season. And if you knew Jonah, please take a moment to remember him with a smile.