On The Day That I Learned My Dad Is Dead

Yesterday was a day like any other.

I wrestled three children from the bed to the bathroom to the table (rinse and repeat multiple times). I cleaned the house. I was cranky. I was tired. I drank a lot of coffee.

I was also feeling a bit sad for what felt like no reason at all, which is not entirely unusual but not exactly commonplace either. Maybe it was post-vacation blues. Or that my mom had just boarded a plane for home the night before. Or maybe my heart already knew what my head didn’t.

But mostly, it was a day of no great significance or importance. When my husband came home from work, I grabbed my purse and left (ALONE) to go grocery-shopping, just as I do every Tuesday evening. I treated myself to dinner, I shopped, I came home.

I got into my yoga pants, I gave hugs and kisses to two little girls as they were ushered off to bed, and I sat down to feed Poppy while watching America’s Got Talent.

All of this was normal.

And then my husband sat down on the ottoman in front of me and put the TV on mute. I was so unsuspecting in that moment before he opened his mouth. So blissfully unaware, even though his TV-muting behavior was completely not normal.

And then his lips parted and he said to me, “The police came while you were out, Hon. They asked for you.”

In the brief pause before his next sentence, my heart sank. Toppled. Flipflopped. Seized. Burst. Broke. All or none of the above? I’m sure it did something that there are no words for. I had texted my mom thirty minutes earlier and had received no response. I felt certain in that split second that he was about to tell me she was dead. I think I may have sucked in a breath, because other than losing my children and my husband, losing her is my worst fear. And then —

“They told me that your dad died.”

Oh.

Well, of course. He had Type I Diabetes and there had been many, many low points in his health over the last year or two. In the last month, he had started throwing up every day multiple times a day and had lost a significant amount of weight. Even though he’d had some bad spells before, a part of me knew the end could be near. A part of me knew it so well that, on an inspired day two weeks ago, I wrote his eulogy. But still. You never really know when it’s coming. Especially when you’ve thought it was coming many times before.

Tears fell. They fell as I watched AGT. They fell onto Poppy as I nursed him. They started and stopped over and over all evening.

I feel relieved for that. I feel relieved and thankful that, despite the abuse I suffered at his hands and the thoughtless way he treated my mom and the stupid decisions he made and the selfish things he did in recent years, my heart is not so hard that I cannot grieve for him. Not so hard that I feel nothing for him.

Because, at the best of times, he was still my dad.

He taught me to drive.

He was there for every graduation and rewards ceremony.

He helped me move into and out of college dorms and apartments.

He cried when he walked me down the aisle.

He paid off my husband’s school loans.

He read stories to my children.

He called me on every birthday.

He did typical dad-things.

And while we weren’t close at all and there are so many complicated feelings always associated with him (probably some of which have not yet been allowed to surface), yesterday — and today — I just felt sad. Sad that Christmases won’t be the same. Sad that Poppy and Skittle will never remember him. Sad that any future child of mine will never meet him. Sad that he was alone when he died. Sad that I can’t remember what I said the last time we talked. Sad that he may have felt unloved in his final days or years. Just so very, and unexpectedly, sad.

Last night, as I left the bathroom wiping my eyes, I heard Cupcake call for her dad. I don’t usually answer their calls for more water, hugs, books, and tickles because it seems to start a cascade of requests, but when I passed by her room yesterday, I felt drawn inside by her sweet voice. She was smiling at me from the top bunk and I walked to her and without saying a word, laid my head against hers and just drank in her warmth, her softness. I don’t know if she felt the wetness of my tears against her cheek, but she giggled and ran her fingers through my long hair.

And I hugged her, fiercely. Because it’s times like these when you acknowledge just how precious and fragile life is. When you can see all the wonderful, glorious years that stretch ahead of her and yet know with certainty just how fast they will pass. When you realize that your own days with her are getting shorter, slipping away, one by one.

So yesterday was a day like any other.

Except, it really wasn’t.

My dad died.

And I learned that I do love him after all.

And I was reminded that, in small ways, we’re all dying and we just have to cherish each other and the time that we have left together.

 

 

Photo Update: 9 Months Old

I’m not going to take the time to do a proper update on Poppy for this milestone, but I will say this: He’s as sweet and lovable as ever. Full of charm. Constantly wanting the affection and attention of everyone he meets. He smiles and laughs ALL the time. Which is a good thing, because otherwise the new, once-a-night wakings might not be bearable. He still has no teeth, which could explain those midnight wakings…they must be arriving any day, right?!?! He’s pondering crawling. He yells just for the fun of it. He slept through his first AND second plane ride (thank GOD, because up until the moment we boarded the plane, he was doing the before-mentioned yelling-because-it’s-fun). And for all the chub and rolls that he has, it’s hard to believe that BOTH of his sisters weighed more at nine¬† months than he does. Love this boy so much!

An Update, Because I Have Nothing Better to Discuss

Why, hello there.

It’s been a while. Or at least, it feels like it has. I’ve been so busy lately and I just haven’t had the energy, ability, or desire to write something worthwhile. At least not here, in this venue. But I’m feeding Poppy right now while binge-watching Army Wives, and I thought it would be a good time to pop in for a quick update on all the happenings in the Dash home.

So, here we go…

ME:

  • My mom left on Monday after spending eleven days with us. It was a glorious visit filled with lots of fun and laughter and very little strife, but I was on the go every second she was here. There were days I was only at home to sleep. I am exhausted. And lonely once again now that she is gone. Getting back into our old routine is always a little hard.
  • Breastfeeding continues and I donate hundreds of ounces every month to a set of twins who were born just a week after Poppy. Have I mentioned that before? I’m glad my body does this one thing right. And thankful that is has helped me to reach my goal weight earlier than I ever have postpartum, despite the copious amounts of sugar I’ve been eating. Breastfeeding cravings are seriously no joke!
  • Another essay of mine will be published on Scary Mommy on June 15th. This one will be published under “Anonymous” (to protect my kids) and is a bit more controversial than the last. I’m nervous about some of the hate it will surely get, but plan to brush it off and embrace the moment.
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. This is really another post for another day, but I’m getting the itch to start “trying” again. We’ll be waiting until next spring, but I feel hopeful and scared and anxious for it all at once. I’m ready for it. But I’m not. But I am. But I’m not. And on and on it goes and always, at the back of my mind, there’s the question of whether I’ll ever even have the chance to have a fourth, ready or not.

HONEY:

  • We should hear any day or minute about what kind of raise or promotion he will or will not be getting. He recently retained a mega-million-dollar account for his company and worked his ass off to do it, so we’re hopeful they will compensate him accordingly and we will be deeply disappointed if they decide not to.
  • He’s always and ever an incredible husband and father. Hard-working. Jovial. Steady. The rock of our family. I’m the one who stays at home and yet he does so much to help me. Every day, I am reminded how lucky I am.

CUPCAKE:

  • She is about to graduate from preschool and I feel excited and a teensy sad to be staring kindergarten straight in the face. She looks forward to school every day, though, and I really, really hope that continues. It reminds me so much of myself.
  • That Scary Mommy essay I mentioned earlier? It’s about her. About how difficult it can be to be her mother, with the amount of attitude and grief that she throws at me on a daily basis. I really hope I don’t regret being so very honest in such a public format. Mom-guilt is real and constant and I’m already feeling it over this. Especially considering that, since writing this, she hasn’t given me many problems at all. I’m thankful for that, but it’s also very…curious. Could she be outgrowing it, after all? Or am I just immune to it after all these years?
  • The other day, she said to me out of the blue, “Mommy, I know you want another baby, but if you can’t have one, I’ll let you play with some of my dolls.” If only it were that easy, sweetheart. If only. And also…please don’t let this be some sign of what is — or is not — to come.

SKITTLE:

  • We just embarked on potty-training not long ago. We haven’t had many successes yet, but not many accidents either. Apparently, this kid has a bladder of steel.
  • She’s starting to talk, act, look, and walk more like a little girl than a baby. It breaks my heart, but I am enjoying every minute of this age with her. Everything she does is adorable. My favorite is when she dramatically throws herself onto the floor and says, “It’s no fair!” Any guesses where she learned that from?

POPPY:

  • Still no teeth. Still screaming in the middle of some nights and at random times during the day as if they will be arriving any moment. And he’s also taken to clamping down — hard — while nursing. This period of teething is so fun.
  • In the last week, he has gone from rolling around and getting stuck in odd places and then screaming for help to efficiently army crawling and getting to exactly what he wants. The dog food & water bowls now remain on the countertop during Poppy’s waking hours.
  • He had a prolonged cough and wheeze for months and there was talk of asthma, but the cough and wheeze are now almost entirely gone. Fingers crossed they stay that way!

WHAT ELSE:

  • We have started the home selling/buying process. At three bedrooms and 1500 square feet, we are maxed out on space here. I feel sentimental over leaving the only home our three children have ever known, a home that has seen me through some of my best and worst life moments, but we desperately need more space. I’m excited for what is to come, but I feel overwhelmed and stressed about the whole process. There’s so much to do! And how does anyone accomplish all of it with KIDS?!
  • Poppy and I will be flying to Idaho in a few weeks to visit my mom for a long weekend. And, later in the summer, we have two short beach getaways planned. We really should be spending our weekends and money getting our house ready to be put on the market, but quality family time is important. Or at least that’s what I tell myself every time I start to feel guilty about it.

So with all of that going on, I’m not really sure when I’ll be returning here. It may be in a week, or a month, or a year. I want this to be a place I can turn to, a release, a diary, but not an obligation. I’ll be back, maybe at the peak of craziness when I crave a shoulder to lean on, or maybe once the dust settles. This summer is going to be a whirlwind. And no matter what yours has in store for you, I hope you all are able to take a few minutes to enjoy a mojito and the sun on your face. Life is beautiful. Even when it’s hard, it’s beautiful.

Be well, friends. I’ll see you again soon. xo

6 Months Old (6 Weeks Late)

Well, our little Poppy boy is officially halfway through his first year. As of about six weeks ago. Better late than never for an update, eh? This sweet boy, bless his heart, loves to be held and spoonfed all the love and attention you can give — which means he spends a lot of his waking hours in arms or on a lap. I have worn this baby in a sling or Boba more at home than I ever did with either of my girls combined…probably twelve times over. It’s exhausting. And he really hates teething, also much more than his sisters ever did. So he’s a lot of work.

But he fills the house with unbridled joy. Smiles and giggles for days, from the moment I peek at him over the rail of his crib first thing in the morning to his last feeding of the day, beaming with my boob in his mouth before he drifts off to sleep. I love this boy more than I ever imagined I could. A few special things about him:

  • I put socks on him and he pulls them off almost immediately, chews on them, and then drops them wherever he is. Rinse and repeat throughout the day. Meanwhile, I find soggy socks throughout the house all day long.
  • Cupcake is possibly his favorite person in the world. He could watch her and interact with her for hours. He especially loves when she sings to him.
  • He rolls over and sits on his own. No crawling or other movement yet, but no surprise there. He’s BIG. (Oddly enough, not quite as big as his sisters were at this age, though.) Also, no teeth yet and barely any hair. Those will come some day, right?
  • He LOVES being outside. On his fussy days, I will take him outside if the weather is nice, and he will be happy as a clam playing in the grass for as long as he can.
  • He really, really, REALLY loves people. Be near him, talk to him, sing to him, tickle him…it will make his day.
  • Eating is fun! He wasn’t sure about it for the first two weeks, but now gets spastically excited when he sees the spoon coming at him with another bite of food. Cauliflower, avocado, banana, carrots, peas, chocolate frosting (don’t judge)…he seems to like it all so far!
  • His arms and legs are constantly flailing, kicking, moving. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten whacked in the face while nursing him.
  • He may be a lot of work, but most nights he does sleep through the night. For eleven hours or so. And he takes an hour-long morning nap and sleeps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon. I really can’t complain. It could be soooo much worse (and it was, for a while).
  • He’s so ticklish. It brings my heart great joy that, all these months later, it still sends him into giggle fits when we get him dressed and undressed throughout the day.

And also? Those cheeks! Those rolls! Isn’t he scrumptious?!

Her.

Over the weekend, Poppy and I attended a Birth Without Fear conference. It was an inspiring day, filled with so many inspirational women and moving moments. But the one that has stuck with me was unexpected.

I first saw her early in the day, when I went to the talk about loss. The speaker was a doula who lost a baby at 34 weeks and, as you might expect, the audience was filled with women who had tear-streaked cheeks and tissues balled up in their fists. The one who sat in front of me wept openly and there was something about her that told me her pain was new. Raw. She had long hair, a full face, a striped shirt, and a swollen belly. A belly that held life, or death, or at least did not so long ago.

I never did speak to this woman. Her vulnerability makes my heart look at her as a girl, but no. She was a woman. Probably around my age. I don’t know her story. She won one of the giveaways and asked if it had any baby stuff in it. I heard her say, “I can’t do baby stuff right now.” I can only assume that she lost a baby very recently, or was in the process of losing one, or was going to lose one that wasn’t compatible with life outside her womb. Or something. I don’t know. But I felt drawn to her.

Our paths crossed many times in the day. I held my Poppy tight against me and watched her quietly, felt the sadness that radiated from her, and thought of Teddy Graham. I ached for her, and ached to reach out and provide some meaningful words of comfort and support, but I felt lost. I may have three children, but I still relate to loss mamas and infertile women more than anyone else. I am not so far removed from the pain and trauma caused by those experiences. And yet, I also am painfully aware how lucky I am and I know — I so very much know — that my loss cannot possibly compare to the loss of someone who loses a baby much farther into her pregnancy. They’re the same thing. And they aren’t. So I feel in limbo. Like I don’t quite fit in anywhere. And when I saw that woman on Saturday, I yearned to provide comfort, but I was holding my perfect baby and felt tongue-tied and idiotic, so I said and did nothing.

When the conference was over, I found a window seat on which to sit and feed Poppy before we made the drive home. And as I sat there in the warm sunlight and thought about the day, the woman with the round belly walked by, carrying her prize basket of non-baby items, quietly leaving the conference alone. She glanced my way ever so briefly and I gave her a small smile, but I don’t even know if she noticed, if she saw that I saw her. Her pain. Her loss. Her baby.

I wish I would have chased after her then and asked to hug her. I wish I would have expressed how sorry I was for her pain and given her an opportunity to talk about her baby. But instead I watched her go and thought of how heavy her heart must be in that moment, but also how strong and courageous she must be in order to attend that conference, a place full of bumps and babies, with such a heavy heart. And to do it alone, no less. As she turned the corner, I said a silent prayer for her, because that was all there was left to do.

And now I remember why I make such an effort to do things that are important to me, despite how fearful I am. Because I hate the feeling of regret. I feel haunted by this woman and her loss, haunted by the fact that I didn’t do something when I felt called to do it. That I said nothing when I was in a position to do so. And I don’t know if it what I would have said or done would have been the right thing to say or do; I just know that I should have acted. I expect better of myself.

And so next time — if there’s ever a next time — I will. I will do better. I will be better. I will continue to try to live a life that doesn’t have room for regret and to connect with other women heart-t0-heart even when I feel my attempts are lacking, insignificant, or pointless.¬† Doing something is better, I am reminded, than doing nothing. I didn’t expect that to be my takeaway from the BWF conference, but alas…it is what is. Unexpected lessons in unexpected places.

Input Wanted

Good news, friends! I got word a couple weeks ago that this post will be published on Scary Mommy on April 30th. That’s exciting! As both a mom and a writer, it feels really huge. And also really terrifying. I haven’t talked “publicly” about my miscarriage very much, and though I’m not opposed to it because I think it NEEDS to be talked about, this post kind of puts my heart out there in the biggest way. Yikes!

Being published on Scary Mommy is terrifying in another way, too. I write anonymously on this blog (for the most part). I will be published on Scary Mommy with my real name and have requested that there be no mention of my blog. As far as I know, there won’t be. But my question to all of you is, should I password-protect the most personal posts on this blog, just in case?

I really don’t care if anyone knows about my infertility journey or reads about my CM and vajayjay or whatnot. I’m an open book when it comes to that! But should I protect the posts that mention friends and family? I’m particularly thinking of some posts that involve my sister and former friends Lillian and Kat. (Long-time readers of this blog will probably know what I’m talking about. For those who do not, you can click on “my sis” and “friends” in the word cloud on the right to get an idea of what I mean.) I did a lot of whining…complaining…bitching. I had a lot of hurt feelings and I poured it out here. I’m not proud of a lot of it. But do I need to protect these posts? While I think my feelings are valid and mostly understandable, I don’t want to hurt, embarrass, or shame anyone unnecessarily. What is the likelihood of someone stumbling across this blog by reading my piece on Scary Mommy, given that there should be no mention of Waiting to Expand there? Am I just being paranoid? My husband thinks there is merit in keeping this blog fully public and says I shouldn’t waste my time because it’s doubtful anyone will find their way here anyways. I’m undecided. Does anyone have an opinion about this? Thoughts? I want to hear what YOU think!

#MicroblogMondays: Old Friends

Yesterday, we invited two old friends of mine into our home for a few hours. And by “old,” I mean that, with the exception of my cousins, these are my very oldest friends. I’ve known them most of my life. That said, I haven’t seen them in twenty years and we’ve kept in touch mostly through the magic of Facebook, which basically means not at all. I’m a naturally shy and reserved person and felt a mix of fear, nerves, anxiety, and sheer dread as I awaited the arrival of, essentially, two people (and their spouses) who were now strangers to me. And so it was a relief to realize that somehow knowing someone in your earliest, most innocent and precious years connects you for life. There was no awkwardness or discomfort; we talked for nearly four hours straight and could have kept going, if it were not for the bedtimes of my children.

As they walked out our front door to return to their hotel, it occurred to me that, had I not moved hours away from them before the start of middle school, we probably would have remained dear friends for all of my life. It’s a little sad to think what I may have missed out on.

Do you keep in touch with your childhood friends? Are you still close to them now?