What's up with Ted's beard?

When Maxie was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit last July, Ted and I were there with him.  Ted stopped shaving then.  When we left the PICU, it was because we lost Maxie - we had to leave the hospital without our little boy.  We haven't felt the same since.  When you don't feel like yourself, you don't recognize yourself in the mirror, you don't even want to be the same person.  You want to wear your grief.  Ted doesn't always express his grief.  He doesn't walk around talking about his grief like I do, but he got Maxie's name tattooed on his arm and he keeps growing his beard.  In Jewish tradition, men don't shave for the first thirty days of mourning (or at least the first week of shiva....I think.  I am not the Jewish expert that you think I am).  We are also encouraged to cover our mirrors.  This tradition stems from a disposition of avoiding vanity during times of deep grief.  We are discouraged from caring our about outward appearance, though I can't imagine anyone in this kind of deep grief caring what they look like at all.  It has been the last thing on both of our minds.  Ted knew that his grieving would not be up in thirty days - not even close.  He decided to shave on Maxie's birthday, October 7th, but when that date came around, he realized that the grieving had really only just begun.  To be clear, he has trimmed the sides, but the front has been left to grow.  Ted plans on growing his beard until the year anniversary of our most terrible day - July 21st.  After he shaves it, he will either keep it shaved or, if he feels like it is still something that is bringing him comfort, he will grow it again.  I think it will be nice for him to be able to go cheek to cheek with Baby M when he is born (due on the 25th of July).

People ask me all of the time what I think of Ted's beard.  His beard means as much to me as it does to him in many ways.  Men and women grieve differently.  You hear it all of the time, but it is really true.  This is the honest truth - I cry and talk and write and grieve in a very public way all of the time.  When a colleague writes me with a request that pertains to a former job responsibility, I tell them that since my son died, I no longer handle that.  When friends visit, I don't make small talk off the bat, I talk about Max.  If I could, I would talk to Ted about Max during all of our time together.  Sadly, that would probably ruin our marriage.  I never wonder if Ted is grieving as much as me though, like many women do when their husbands keep quiet, remain strong or act like nothing is wrong.  Ted wears his grief.  While I wanted to avoid all new people in Mexico, I think Ted actually hoped people would ask about his tattoo and beard.  When people do ask him about either, he tells them about Max.  It doesn't matter if they are strangers or contractors working on his job site.  He tells them that our son died last summer.  He doesn't care if it makes them uncomfortable.  He loves Max.  That Ted wears his grief the way he does has a deep impact on my heart.  It is further proof that he is the man that I fell in love with, the father that Max adored, and a person who feels DEEPLY - whether he is telling you about it all of the time or not. 

When we came in through customs, Ted showed the agent his passport.  The agent looked at his photo and said, "This was taken before you got tough", and then gave a little laugh.  It was taken when Ted and I were softer people, before we had to become hardened to life.  I have always found Ted to be incredibly handsome - when I first met him in Israel in 1996 with his long ponytail and hippier ways, when I re-met him in 2006 with his short hair and preppier style, and since the passing of our dear sweet boy with his sad eyes and grief beard (not to mention the fact that I actually like a "tough guy" look).  I am proud of the way he wears his grief - it is honest.  The people who act like nothing is wrong whether talking about their own loss or ours don't resonate with me at all. To lose someone you love should shake the earth.  To lose your child should change your life forever. He is honest when so many people would be more comfortable with us putting up a false front.  Most everyone we know would be so much happier with us both if only we could suck it up and present a happier (but incredibly dishonest) version of our grief. 

Ted is the love of my life.  He is beautiful inside and out.  I love him anyway he is and I cherish every day that I have left with him. 




Chantelmurrah said...

I have been reading your blog for a little while now but have not commented. I appreciated this post. I lost three sweet babies during pregnancy (different pregnancies, not triplets). I wish that I could have worn something around to signify my grief so that people could have understood that these babies mattered to me even though I wasn't very far along and they hadn't even been born yet. I don't think most people in my life even realize I still think about those babies. I think they've been all but forgotten, especially since I have other children but I still always wonder where they would fit into our family if they were here. Your Maxie was beautiful. I'm very sorry for your loss. Chantel

Carm said...

This post (like most) brings tears to my eyes (I gotta start reading at home instead of at work). It's a really nice tribute to Ted and to Max. I love and miss you all.

greg said...

Really beautiful Abby. That comment from the customs dude is the kind of thing scripted by the cosmos or whatever. You guys look perfect together in both pictures. Miss you.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

Pete understands Ted's beard. He has decided to shave his own on Iris' first birthday. I don't mind it, either, and understand the idea of having a physical change to reflect the mental change. In our case, people have made fun of it but I think he should do what he wants.

Becca said...

You guys seem like true bashert, the real deal.

Sigallef said...

Thank you for sharing. It makes perfect sense.