Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Eternal questions are pesky. Some time ago, a commenter asked:

Yikes. What happened? That is what I can not get my mind around after reading your blog. How did you both end up HERE from There? And can you make your Peace with HERE? I will pray for your children.....

Well, here's the thing. Peace I have. At least intermittently. As much as anyone, probably more than most. Still more would be fine, of course.

I don't know what happened to land us here. I have some guesses (which horrify me). Perhaps someday I'll have an uncanny dream which will crystallize everything and voila, I'll get it. That happens periodically. For now though, I think I'm just going to have to make myself comfortable with not getting it. I'm a reasonably bright person. I have decent IQ scores, for crying out loud. I function well (most of the time) in my daily life. The kids are happy, learning, and love each other (mostly). They all have health care, dental care, and get where they need to go, groomed and dressed in clean clothes which they've picked out. Q is making progress. Upon examination, all these things would tend to manifest a fairly high functionality, yes? Okay then.

As a smart person, I truly don't get how we went from my husband being all smiley and blushing over the video/computer hook-up when I sat on his lap and we held up the little kidney bean ultrasound picture to announce to my parents that baby number five (surprise!) was on the way, to this. I don't get how we went from him calling me up while walking between locations on campus to tell me that he couldn't get the silly grin off his face thinking about that little baby in my belly, to this. How did we move from ending every phone call with "Love you," "Love you too," to three days later, this? He used to call when he had a free minute to talk to me about the exact same thing I was just that moment thinking about calling him to talk over. I used to text his pager while he was in the OR with things that made him blush (they were innocent, but open to interpretation -- heh). He made me laugh. All. the. time. I loved watching him bike or play at the beach with the kids, or listening to them playing video games in the next room, extra goofy sound effects courtesy of him. Made my heart swell 'til I thought my chest would pop open. Really.

Then there was the time, on our last family vacation (the one that produced Q) when he was taking great pains to get G to give himself a pep talk, a daddy bolstering his son's little ego. I was so proud of the both of them, so proud. I sat there as he drove, listening as he talked to our eldest about what a great kid he was, thinking to myself, "Wow. Nearly eleven years into marriage, this incredible man continues to surprise me. Wow." The soundtrack in my head was often, "What a man, what a man, what a very good man..." I used to brag about him online, in person, to friends and family. You bet we had our frustrations, but he was my "studly MD hubby." Online, I'd type out "husband" instead of "dh" because I liked thinking about him and all the word entailed while I typed it. For a couple of years I thought about starting a blog so I could chronicle our family high-jinks, like the night he calmly, gently chased a young skunk out of the family room. See? Studly MD hubby indeed.

As to the MD (and PhD) part: he went to the wall for his patients, even as a med student, even when it got him into trouble with attendings or residents. Sometimes his fellow students or interns thought he was crazy for sticking his neck out. Example: he once argued with a pediatrician about whether or not breastfeeding was really possible long-term. By the time he was done with the rotation in her office, he'd made up educational pamphlets for parents which she'd asked for extra copies of, he'd held me up as a working example of effectively nursing babies (blush), and the pediatrician ended up taking us all out for dinner along with her family. He had me pick up little sticker and activity books for a young patient who was to be stuck, bored, in the hospital for a while. He worried over and looked for a homeless man he'd treated who left a clinic AMA, with bleeding that wouldn't stop.

His actions along those lines just served to heighten my opinion of him as well as the opinions of his patients. His professional priorities and heart for his work were as clear-eyed and unrelenting as his commitment to his family. His star was rising and there seemed truly no limit to what he'd conquer. Watching him as he progressed through both research and clinicals, garnering international attention and publishing his work, I was often in awe. Those things he was taking on were hard (whopping understatement), even for the people born to do them, even for single grad/med students. Yet here he was, plowing through, taking it all in stride. It was certainly not easy, but he just achieved like mad. I could go on forever; I have plenty of material.

I was less than perfect, less than ideal. As was he. God help us for being human. But I knew, from tales friends told, that I was a lucky woman and he was a blessed man. We had wicked chemistry, buckets of affection and high regard for each other and we showed it, even (most of the time) when disagreeing. I wanted to be right where I was and I thought he did too.

Perhaps I was living on a different planet. I assumed that we had all the time in the world to once again be on the same schedule. For me to be once again whispering into his ear as he fell asleep what a very good man I was so lucky to be married to or telling him for the bazillionth time that I was glad, so glad that he'd picked me and that I'd picked him. I thought I'd be doing those things again as soon as the wretched year was over. I wish I'd been engaged in those things, instead of stupidly doing laundry or lesson planning or whatever until after midnight when he had to be heading out the door at 4:30am. I assumed that we'd line things up again. I even wrote out immediate, short- and long-term goals. All my lists ended with: Find new ways to show ___ how much I love him. I had assumed that whatever was bugging him was an artifact of an "ordinary," perfectly awful, General Surgery internship year.

Obviously, I have plenty of self-condemnation, regrets surrounding missed opportunities with him, sadness at the losses we're suffering. I had a piercing conversation the other night with my ten year old about the emptiness she feels at not having Daddy in the house. I told her, very quietly (I don't want them to carry my emotional details around, they have enough to worry about), that I'm so sorry and I feel it too.

These things haunt me, boy do they haunt me, but they don't decide my daily actions. At least not more than to make me strive a little more, set that bar a smidge higher, engage better and more thoroughly wherever I'm able. I don't know that I'm getting it any more right, but I am more aware of myself. For this, I'm grateful. It's just that... Losing my family seems such a high price to pay.

As to whether or not I can "move on," I move on every day. Life is what it is. No amount of wallowing in regret will energize me to better handle things. Sleep, exercise, decent food in decent quantities, good books, drinking in the moments with the punkinheads, laughter -- these things energize me to better handle things. And that is what must be done. I have these kids to walk into adulthood, along the way hopefully imparting useful skills and knowledge in relationships and academia alike. That task/bliss doesn't allow more investment of time on this subject than the odd flickers I occasionally leak out here. (added: That's only partly true. I'm always keenly aware of being alone in this. It just doesn't get to ruin me. I hope.)

Did you know that the two most important factors in determining a child's success are a.) whether or not his/her home is intact and b.) whether or not his/her mom is depressed? Talk about a short motivational speech. That pretty much decides my direction for me. To that end, I have a variety of people who know me in real life and have agreed to alert the media and/or kick my hiney should I need a course correction with myself or the kids. Since I'm lacking that Particular Relationship in which one would expect to enjoy the benefits of active, loving accountability, I've built a substitute scaffolding of the same general type. While it can't compare, it'll do. (Observation: it seems it's taking dozens of people to make up for a certain someone's absence...)

I'm trying to leave the details up to God. Once in a while, I do this visualization of tossing a bundle up into a tree, leaving the worries tied neatly in a package high up on a bough. If I need them, I can always go back for them. But carrying around that kind of worrisome "stuff" really slows a person down.

A few weeks back, I was in the midst of bedtime chaos, cleaning up puke and washing delicates, medicating Q and settling down fussy people, and I had stopped in front of the washing machine, puzzled. It was spinning. I was thinking, "Hmmm. Washing machine. Washing machine. Something about a washing machine. What is it?" Oh yeah. One gets married, has a bunch of kids who make messes with bodily fluids way out of proportion with their physical size. One cleans up these messes, one cooks, cleans, teaches, wipes, loves on those kids. One hauls said kids all over to lessons, therapies, appointments. One does this and more and there are supposed to be some perks and sometimes they are supposed to jolly well involve a certain someone and a washing machine on spin cycle. Or something like that.


And why address this now, you ask. Well, among other reasons, the sorting of the storage unit was tough. It was positively wretched, running across all those cards signed, "Your adoring husband," etc. It was a strange feeling to find the pile of (still blank) cards, most of them at least a little risque, that I'd picked up for him over the years. I'd given him some, sent him some while I was out of town, tucked some into his luggage for him to find when he was off at conferences or doing elective rotations. I liked to keep a stash in my desk, and there they were, sitting on top of a box with the rest of my blank stationery.

And then there's the fact that I think I can only mourn one thing at a time. While working without pause on the daily micro parts, the macro portion of the loss of possibilities with my youngest babe has been really tough to wrap my brain around. Especially so when trying also to understand and function in the midst of this. (Review: there are so many opportunities for Awful in life, why do this?) So maybe I'm mourning this now. I don't know. Maybe I'll be clearer on things in a few years. I don't exactly have oodles of time to devote to processing it all in a big chunk, so it may take me the rest of my life. (Which is fine, I guess. What are my alternatives?)

So. If you're still here, you've survived this field trip through my head. We won't be doing this regularly. But if you don't mind me dropping sporadic references to very good memories, stick around. In the meantime, Q's got lots to tell and he will, probably in spurts. The big kids are a riot and provide plenty of material for belly laughs. There's a ton of information-sharing to be done. Homeschooling is always good for discussion. Sometimes I even have an intellectual hiccup that can't quite be suppressed.

Things are complicated, hectic, messy and often painful, yes. But I am a citizen of a first world country, mother of five gorgeous kids, drawing breath on a beautiful and imperfect planet, and thus, blessed.


4-H Zoo said...

Oooooohhhhhh... To still speak so lovingly and longingly. I'm mopping up the tears from the keyboard before I continue. As a first-hand witness to this relationship, I know you don't exaggerate and I miss it all for you. Not to mention that I miss you all!

Clarity you have. Humor you have. Honesty you have. Beauty you have. Blessings you have. But there is something/someone more you deserve. Still praying, still hoping, still wishing.

Be encouraged. You're doing a fabulous job--on ALL fronts. Truly. I am in awe. Having you here just makes it worse that you're not!

My little D was wishing today that the plane he saw was bringing Q and you and the bunches back to us. Sniff. Me too!

sleepy jeanne said...


Anonymous said...

*sigh* I don't quite know what to say.

Again and Again, I am so sorry.

What an articulte post. And you are very right about grieving in stages. I think it is therapeutic to write your me mories.

ChristyB in AL

annie said...

I left the original comment. I more than hope it did not cause pain. Or, as I am sure the pain is never gone, dredge it up at a time when you did not have the strength to battle with it. You are CLEARLY a smart articulate lady with a heart and mind (and healthy physical desires!) that would create a home any (sane)man could use as a north star during those stormy exhausting parts of life. (as a nurse married to a md, the medical/hospital world can be a wacky, fake reality--a whole post in itself!) Though it would be almost beyond a womans natural response not to "would of, could of, should of" during that last year the playing field was not level. He did not tell you the game was changing and give you and all your gifts the ability to help him clarify all that was at stake. (As I always remind my kids: the devil is smart-Evil is always attractive in whatever form it comes in). If we only had the ability to hold open the book of his life now and say "read- you don't want to do this!" Sometimes free will stinks, stinks, stinks. I am glad you posted. The kids are lucky that you have the grace to see the beauty. Good luck. Take care. And keep lofting those bundles. Prayer and good wishes.

Anonymous said...

You are smart. And good. Don't let the evil oompa-loompas try to convince you otherwise.

Melanie said...

You are a very strong woman, and I admire you for that. Someone doesn't know what they are missing.
Ans 5 someones are very lucky to have you as their mother.


C said...

Aw. Thanks all of you for your kind affirmation.

annie -- no worries. Your comment provided a springboard for a little healthy self-examination, but certainly not pain. Compounded by IRL developments, your words made a great segue to the mish-mash of thoughts circulating in my head. Thank you for coming back and saying what you did. (ITA about the strange pretend world in hospitals. Friends from the med school years would sure agree. Not many folks would understand this, but I have to say that I've experienced a little twitchy "PTSD" when walking through a medical facility for some appointment and I suddenly hear a call pager. Shudder.)

I appreciate your willingness to prop me up, all of you. ;o) You're all very sweet to do so.

Thanks for the thoughts and prayers and hugs. Y'all make such a difference!


PariSarah said...


Melissa said...

This post was beautifully written and as you know...I DO know how you feel. My world was not the medical world but the Law Enforcement world and it was just as "wacky, fake reality" as Annie mentioned in her comment. I prefer the term...twisted.

You are an amazing mother and your children are blessed to have you and you to have them. I try to remember that we are not a broken family, just a different one. A better one because the one link that didn't want to be here is gone and now we are stronger then ever.