We are just different.
My husband and I, that is. Grief makes that difference so stark. Oh, the early days, Sam and I both lost it at the slightest provocation. Now, it is different. Our grief has changed, and our grieving has changed. The quantity and quality of it. I am often moved when he brings Lucia up in conversation, and when he thinks of her. And yet, with all this talk about the photos of our babies, it reminds me that we have none up in our house. It is his trigger. He doesn't want to see her in our bedroom, or in our living room. He says it is too painful.
I understand that, but I do want to see her. I want it to be normal to see my daughter around my house. It don't want to gasp when I see her pop up in the little preview window on the computer. I don't want to shiver when I open an unmarked envelope in our photo box. I don't want to have my daughter be some kind of taboo. She was in me. She is part of me. Like Beatrice. Like Thor. Why have we made her so different?
In August, I wrote about my marriage. We have an amazing marriage and life together. We laugh a great deal in our home, delight in our daughter in the same way, dream and deal with our grief in ways that complement each other, though we are different. I miss my husband when he goes to work. He is my best friend, staunchest ally, artistic cheerleader, beautiful muse, perfect lover and the reacher of things on high shelves. I hit the husband lottery. Sometimes I think the biggest issues in our relationship are that we are too similar, get our feelings hurt in the same way at the same time. But, some other moments, particularly surrounding our grief, catch me off-guard and I turn my head like the Victor dog. "Whaaaaaa?" He begins speaking a different emotional language than me, and I am suddenly aware that the babel fish has fallen out of my ear.
I have tried to keep Lucy close to me in other ways. When Lucy first died, I bought this antique glass pendant. I wanted a momento mori. I meant to put a bit of hair in it, and wear it. Even for me, it looked beyond creepy. I just am not that Victorian no matter how desperately I love the Mütter Museum. Then I imagined the questions I would get from strangers. I opted to write her name on a piece of onion skin and put a flower in there. The flower died, and the piece of paper floated sideways awkwardly. I wore it very briefly, like all my remembrance jewelry. I don't know why that is. My antique glass pendant is now rusted shut because I left it in the bathroom junk basket. I thought about and designed a tattoo. A friend once mentioned to me that if I had a tattoo of Lucy's name, I should get one of Beatrice's as well, and then that should translate to the jewelry. She has two living children and is very conscious of sibling rivalry. I can appreciate that. I would never want to make Bea feel like she is competing with someone who never is naughty. If I had all my children living with me, I would never tattoo just one child's name on me. But this is all I would have of Lucy--her name written on my body. Her birth and death date carved in metal around my wrist. A clump of hair. A grainy photograph of my baby covered in vernix, her skin torn across her face, in my arms as I weep. I wish I could explain it to her, but I imagine this is what everyone thinks when they see Lucy's name on my jewelry--they see the absence of Beatrice's name.
"Lucy is sick," Beatrice points to the computer screen.
"Yes. Lucy was sick." Was she sick? Is that fair? And yet, she doesn't look healthy. She doesn't look alive, though she looks beautiful.
I understand that my husband doesn't want to walk into a room for his slippers and begin crying as Bea explains that Lucy is sick, or later when she begins to understand more deeply, that Lucy is dead. To think of all his daughter is missing. To think of all that he is missing. And yet I want to be surrounded by my babies, anyway I can. We stand at two sides of a large, plunging chasm. I would never want to hurt him purposefully, and he would never want to hurt me. And so we stand facing each other, arms extended, weeping.
Recently, when I mentioned my post about friends, Sam talked about how he has no male friends. None around here. He misses his brothers. He misses his frat bros, as I condescendingly refer to his other friends. And here he is living in a place where he never quite met people to hang out with. He moved here five years ago for his second graduate degree in nursing. Most of his classmates were female, and his male nurse anesthetist friends moved away from here after graduating. His workmates are like him--married with children, which doesn't exactly lend itself to hanging out. Philadelphia is one of those places where people are born, live and die. When you move here and meet locals, you realize their friendships were formed in elementary school. It is hard to negotiate the having of a beer. We have awesome neighbors who we have a beer with here and there, but it is different.
We recently bought a new computer with a video camera. I thought it would be cool to chat with my friends around the world. To hear them and see them. And after I set it up, I mentioned to Sam that I could try to chat with his brothers. As the fuzzy screen cleared, my nephew, niece and brother-in-law living across the country came into focus. And Sam's face lit up. I sat on the couch in the same room needle-felting and watching them. Sam spent fifteen minutes making goofy faces, and warping the image with some camera settings, pretending to pick his nose, as the kids and his brother laughed. He held up Bea's belly and tickled her. He made his smile gigantically warped and laughed. They joked about watching television together. They scratched their butt. Obnoxious words popped up on the bottom of the screen. They didn't talk about anything. They hung out together. Drank a virtual beer. When he got off the computer, he gave me a huge hug. He teared up. "Thank you for doing that for me. I miss my brothers so much."
We are just different.
And that is okay.
I edited this post to read my husband and I are different, rather than men and women. I should not have made sweeping generalizations about men and women grieving differently, since the first two comments have mentioned that it is not like that for other couples. It is for us. So, I will keep this personal.