Jay used to wake up at 6am on the dot every morning. I would bring him into bed with us to nurse and catch another 5-10 minutes of sleep. I always hoped he would nurse and then fall asleep for awhile longer. I think that might have happened twice. Usually he was ready to conquer the world while his father and I tried to keep him occupied. We would give him a toy to play with, or a book to look at while we lay next to him with our eyes closed. Lazy parents. When he’d get bored he’d throw the book at our faces, usually mine. That would pretty much be all the motivation I needed to get up and go make him his scrambled eggs.
Sometimes when I’d lie there, I’d get really down about things. “I’m too &%$* tired,” I’d think. A litany of complaints would fill my head. It’s too early. I don’t want to go to work today. I never get any time to myself. If the pity party got too ridiculous, I’d stop myself and make a list of all the wonderful things I had to be thankful for. I’d always start with the fact that I had two, happy, healthy children. I told myself to make a list of 10 things that made my life wonderful, but I often came up with much, much more than 10. Once my son died, though, it became hard to even come up with 5.
It would be easy for me to say I don’t have anything to be thankful for, but that’s so not true. The hardest thing to admit sometimes is that there is still a lot to love in this world. Even though most people I know have not had to deal with this level of pain, I can’t even turn into a bitter Scrooge.
I’m going to make a list of things I’m Thankful for. This list is for me, when I’m feeling like things couldn’t possibly be worse, and it’s for anyone else who has lost a child and reads this blog. If you lose your ability to see any of the beauty in this world for all the horror that’s among us, then two people died instead of one.
THINGS I’M THANKFUL FOR
1. My beautiful daughter, who is a survivor, a nurturer, and a better dresser than me
2. My little son, who I affectionately call Floyd in the blog, and at home, call him by other ridiculous names. Leroy Jenkins is the current popular name.
3. My husband, who traversed this tragedy with an endless amount of patience and grace
4. A nice, warm home that’s plastered with kids art, littered with toys and comes with a messy, overgrown garden as we are too busy loving little kids inside
5. Real friends. My collection of weavers has made such a difference. When you can be as raw as possible and still see smiling faces at your doorstep, you know you’ve made it.
6. My health, at least for now (I can’t be that positive. You’ll have to give me a break on this one)
7. My sense of humor. I now know that you can laugh even when things are complete shit. Whatever is going on in your life, if you can’t get a chuckle out of absolutely anything, you’re in trouble.
8. My mother. She’s gone now, but moms have a way of staying with you. Her years of unsolicited advice still ring in my head, and if I’m quiet enough, the advice I’m looking for still comes through. Her unwavering support while she was alive still works today. She instilled in me the importance of strength and humor, two giant pillars of survival.
9. Insects, wind, sunshine, and other nature stuffs. Even in the early, early days of grief, when I’d sit on my deck and smoke cigarettes with tears running down my face, I’d look over and admire a dragonfly, or listen to the wind in the trees. I’d wonder what on earth could make me appreciate those moments before coming back to my personal reality of hell. How could something, anything really, still be beautiful? Tragedy and life and death and love and miracles and everything else are all inside the same snow globe, with it all whipping around. It’s all there together. Throughout your life, you’re going to get hit with a little bit of everything.
10. Writing, and my high school typing teacher. I won’t say his name here, but he stood behind me one day while we were instructed to just type anything for practice. He said, “You write like you speak. It’s like there’s no filter. That’s interesting.” I didn’t know any other way to write. I don’t have much of a filter, anyway. But that lack of a filter in writing allows me to take off the smiley mask and just say, at least in part, what’s really going on in my head. I’ve always wondered if people think I’m cold when I can look them in the eye and tell them we lost a son, or that my mother died, and then I soon change the subject. I can’t get in that space when I’m in line at Trader Joe’s or at a playdate with my daughter. But I can get there now when no one’s looking, and I’m so grateful for the insight and straight therapy it has provided me throughout my life.
11. And as always, I am grateful for my Jay. He taught me more than I ever thought I’d learn.
What are you thankful for?