The Ripple Effect

Ted and I were invited to a Rosh Hashana party last week at the home of some new friends (who we love, by the way).  We didn't know anyone else going so I worried just a little bit about making small talk with new people.  Especially new people with children.  I know from experience how much people with children like to ask questions and make conversation about children with other people who have children.  The topic of children is an "easy" way to make small talk with strangers.

With new people, I think it's important to keep it light.  But, there is nothing light about our experience.  I can't make it light, no matter how big the smile is on my face.  The second I mention Max, I think the hole in my heart probably becomes visible from space.

We were doing pretty good overall.  Not having to socialize much because Mo is in that stage where he crawls so much that you have to keep on top of him all of the time.  My advice - if you can, bring a baby to a party where you don't know anyone.  You won't be expected to mix in at all.  You can just trail around behind your kid, keeping your head down, making sure they don't get into trouble.  (Terrible advice, I recognize, to parents who have just lost their only child to SIDS or anything else.  If I had been reading this blog in the year between losing Max and Mo's birth, this is where I'd stop reading)

Eventually though, we did start talking to folks.  We did what we usually do and ask a thousand questions of whomever we are talking to so that there isn't a chance for them to ask us the dreaded questions.  People like people who ask a million questions.  People don't like people who kill their buzz at a party by talking about their child who stopped breathing at daycare.

I actually thought we were going to get off scott free but, of course, we didn't.  Our conversation partner gestured over to a big group of kids playing and asked, "So, how many of these little guys do you have running around?"  The silence was overwhelming.  Neither Ted nor I answered.  In the space of about 30 seconds, a complete conversation happened in my head:

"Just tell him you have one on earth and one in heaven"
"Heaven?  Do I even believe in heaven?  AND "heaven" kind of wraps up the messy, painful package a little too neatly"
"No, just don't tell him.  He doesn't have children.  He wouldn't understand"
"How can I tell him I have one child when I have TWO!?"
"He doesn't need to understand.  Just tell him and change the subject."
"Well then why even bother telling him?"

By this point, the guy was looking at us like we were nuts.  Like, "Don't these people know how many children they have?"

"One", I said, and then instantly felt sick.  But, we DO only have one "running around".  Horrifyingly, my answer was accurate.  Ted and I just looked at each other with one of those looks that conveys our understanding of exactly what is happening in the other person's brain.  We haven't spoken about it since.  It's probably going to happen at least 50 million more times in our lives, so why bother discussing it every single time?

I think the bigger point here, for me at least, is the ripple effect that losing Max has had on every single part of our lives.  The Tsunami was his passing and the way that it happened so suddenly and shockingly in the midst of our lives having become completely centered around his existence.  Then huge waves that immediately started flowing from that impact (and continue to come at us) I've discussed ad naseum - they continue to knock me off my feet daily - grief, survivors guilt, meaninglessness, emptiness, abandonment.  I am always looking for the the BIG waves - worried about their impact. So worried, in fact, that I forget to look for the little ones.  But, the little waves throw me off balance hourly - the questions people ask, the silly things people post on their Facebook pages (I made the mistake of looking last week and I could literally go on and on about this one), the milestones that children "his age" are reaching without him, the words that come out of my own mouth when I least expect it.

There seems to be no end.  THIS is the new normal.  The new normal is making sure to always be on guard, to have your speech prepared, to know how you are going to handle a variety of situations that you used to be able to take for granted, to "put your best foot forward" even though it is mangled and non-functional.  It's anything but normal - this new normal of ours - still feeling all of the ripples, even on our "easiest" days.


Bianca said...

I am so sorry that you live with a new normal instead of being able to point to both your boys and say, "those two rug rats are ours." It is so ridiculously unfair to Max and Mo and you and Ted and all the people who love and miss Maxie so much. Just wanted to say that I know it's not the same, but I feel the ripples of Max not being here everyday and I know so many other people do too. He is so painfully missed. xoxo

jessica said...

I'm so sorry. Such an inadequate statement for how I feel for you guys. It is soul crushing. It is unfair. It is not the way that it's supposed to be. I am just so sorry that this is your "normal" and that you always have to be on guard with your hearts and souls. Mostly, I am just so sorry that Maxie is not here. It's not right. Thinking of you and your beautiful boy today, and always. Love you. xo

emily said...

"The new normal is making sure to always be on guard, to have your speech prepared, to know how you are going to handle a variety of situations that you used to be able to take for granted"--Yes, this! All. The. Time.

Em said...

I totally get this post. How the little waves smack you in the back when you're scanning the horizon for the big ones. oh yes.

I do want to say that I couldn't read your blog when I first found it because you got Mo so quickly and we had to wait 'so long' (not long at all in the grand scheme of things) for Nathan. I'm so glad I follow you now. Max and Eva were so close in age. I wish I had been following in the early days but there you go...nothing is ever right is it. Thinking of you Abby as you swim in the waves.