I said I wouldn't write about grief this month, I changed my mind.
I wake to the regular morning sounds of chatter and clinking at my MIL's house. "The spare room is way too close to the kitchen," I think to myself, for the 567th time. Little sleeps on my shoulder and I am pinned to the bed, plotting how to escape without waking her.
"...It was a pretty long labor. The baby was finally born this morning but the mother had a seizure right after and needed to be transferred. She's been there all day holding the baby..."
My youngest SIL is working at a midwifery clinic, job shadowing if you will, to gain experience, to decide if this is the direction she wants to take with her life. She left before dinner last night to attend another birth.
I am momentarily jealous. I long to hold a newborn these days.
I finally wriggle free and stumble blindly to get dressed before putting in my contacts. The potatoes are already cut and in the pot. One turkey pulled apart and ready to serve. I spend the next three hours making mashed potatoes, gravy, and pulling apart the remaining turkey my MIL cooked the previous night. I forget to eat breakfast, I remember to hang wet laundry because the dryer is broken.
We drive downtown, loads of Thanksgiving dinner in the trunk. Four hundred people are expected to file through today, to get their turkey dinner, a gift from Bridge of Hope to refugee families who have escaped wars and destruction in their various countries of birth.
I get blisters on the tips of my fingers, in spite of the silicone gloves I wear, pulling apart the countless hot turkeys that arrive just in time, without a carving knife. I don't notice the burns until later in the evening.
People are fed. I wish I had pictures of the beautiful scenes; all of these children all different and beautiful playing together, the faces that light up when we offer the turkey bones to take home for soup.
It is a good day. I am fine all day.
This morning we drive to church, my mind is wandering staring out the window. The houses near the freeway that burnt to the ground two years ago in the wildfires are almost completely rebuilt I notice.
Without any warning I find I am blinking back tears, the image of a newborn in my SIL's arms fresh in my mind again. There are no babies or births for me this month, though there should have been. Just like that, this day becomes an ordeal, something to survive, to get through, before I can go home and curl up into a ball where no one can see me.
The kids get to their classes. I stop at the restroom, try to collect myself. "OK, I can do this," I think,"just get through."
There is a newborn baby outside the main door with a crowd of well wishers gathered round. I turn my head away, go through a different door. I will find Aaron, sit next to him, and I can hide there. I don't want anyone to look at me with concern and ask how I am. I will completely lose it if they do.
He isn't there, he's sitting at a table outside reading. I can't do this today. I can't be in there alone. I can't explain it to him without breaking down. I go hide in the car instead.
Once the sobbing subsides I try again. I blow my nose, comb my hair, put on my sunglasses, and head back inside. And there is a friend, and she asks the dreaded question, and I cannot speak, I can not say, "I'm fine" and walk away. I fight back tears, again. What do I say? "I'm crying, again, because I want my baby, my Shiloh, to be here. I can't get the image of the delight on Little's face as she holds our neighbor's newborn out of my head. I wish so much she could be a big sister this month."
I can't say that. I can't talk at all past these stifled tears. I croak out a short explanation.
She understands. She hugs. I eventually stop crying on her shoulder. I can talk to people again, carefully.
MIL wants to meet us after church, have a picnic, go for a walk, spend some time. I'm afraid talk will turn to babies. I ask Aaron to tell them to please not mention it.
We eat Costco pizza on the new stress ribbon bridge spanning the lake, or rather, the mud with dead trees sticking out of it. The water is low again this time of year. Some sit, and some walk. I have to walk, even in shoes that will give me blisters.
Red earth hills rise all around the lake like a cradle. Brown hills, blue water and, every so often, a patch of brilliant green that startles. The sun is gentle today, the wind is cool.
Fire scarred trees are around every corner. I marvel aloud at green leaves curling out of blackened twigs. They look dead to me, but they are not.
I walk alone, held, it feels, by sky and the earth together. I keep thinking that there is some kind of lesson here, some encouragement to take from this triumph of life after such devastation.
But it feels too far away to hope for right now, life. I feel blackened and scarred, tired and sad. I know the story doesn't end here. There are trees and laughing brooks round a few more bends. But I cannot see them yet, cannot hope. I can only take each curve as it comes, and keep walking, knowing that good days and bad can cause blisters.
I didn't take these lovely photos of Lake Hodges. They were taken by villanninv, bookish in north park, and vissago and posted under the terms of a Creative Commons License