Friday, March 16, 2012

about today

"What do I need to do?" my father asks, his brow crinkled and heavy with thought. His hair is cut short. It is the first thing I notice. I just saw him five days ago, and his hair was longer. He is scruffy now with a grey five o'clock shadow and his hair is short. He is confused, but silent, from the fever. It is nothing serious. He is in hospital, yes. With an infection common among the wheelchair bound. Just with his condition and inability to move when he gets a fever, they want to make sure he isn't having a stroke, or something even more sinister.

They called me last night at  9 pm to tell me they took him by ambulance to the emergency room.

"Do I need to go to the hospital tonight? Does he need me there?" I am sober. I haven't had a drink in 15 months. I can drive at 10 pm to a hospital ninety minutes away. The thought crosses my mind quickly. It is the little gift of sobriety that I notice today.

"No." The nurse says. "There is nothing to be done. He asked me to call you. He is fine. We know what it is, but we just want to make sure there is nothing else." The nurse asks me to call back in an hour. I drink mugwort and peppermint tea and watch a documentary on George Harrison.

They put my father on the phone. It is 11:30 at night, and he is sitting in an ER bay waiting to go to a room. I talk loudly. I scream, actually.

He says he feels fine. I hear the nurse say they are giving him a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia. I scream that I will be there in the morning.


"What do I need to do?" The morning light is illuminates his eyes, which are growing duller in his older age. They shown like Beezus' eyes once. His jet black hair and crystal blue eyes. He remembers to ask again. It is the fifth time.
"Nothing, Dad. Just get better. Rest. Take it easy." I say it softly.
"I don't need to do anything?"
"Nothing. We are taking care of everything." My sister and I exchange glances. We are both concerned about how often he is asking this question. I touch his hand which is still burning up with fevers. "You are confused right now because of the fever. It is like being in a 103 degree room. It will get better, Dad. I love you. I took care of everything. I talked to the nurse and the doctor."
"They never tell me anything."
"I took care of it. They should tell you too, though. You are fine here. Just sleep if you can."
"Okay." He sits for a few minutes then asks again.

"Do I need to do anything, Ang?"

The children play in the hospital room. They are used to rooms like this, with a television mounted to the ceiling and anti-microbial sanitizer that comes out if you shake your butt near the motion detector. Heh heh heh.

He doesn't pay much attention to the kids today. He is silent, half-lidded, smiling when we catch his eye. He doesn't feel hungry, he says. He wants to know where channel 6 is, and where is his phone. And he keeps asking what he needs to do.

What do I need to do? 

The question keeps echoing in my head all afternoon. I know what he means. It feels like we should be doing something. When you are sick, it feels like you should do something to fix it. Something more than watching Price is Right, and cat napping all day. But then it seems more existential as the day wears on. More important. Is he asking because he knows something? Is he scared of dying? Am I scared of dying?

What do I need to do? 

I received her birth certificate today. Or rather her Certificate Of Birth Resulting In Stillbirth today. At first it bothered me that it was different. You know, when I applied for it in January. I wanted it to be the same as my other children. But it isn't the same. She died. What I want is for her to be alive. That will never be the same as my other children. It is just a piece of paper.

And yet it feels more than paper. It feels like she whispered to me, her little hummingbird spirit flitting around my ear, whispering, "You didn't dream me, Mama. I was here. I was real. You don't have to do anything anymore, but just rest."

What do I need to do?

You put it away, Mama, after you trace my name with your finger. After you smell it. After you say our names together. After you marvel at the issuance date being my due date, and your birthday. After you tell my grandparents. After you cry.

What do I need to do, baby?

Feel me, Mama. Allow that, finally. Allow yourself to feel me when you need, to smell me on the wind. Allow me to be the windchimes and the door slamming and the shadows right out of your line of vision. Allow me to be the lights that come on in the middle of the night, and the open cabinets. Allow me to be the ladybugs and hummingbirds and the songs that Beezus sings. Allow me to live in your home. Allow me to be magic. Allow me to be a prayer. Allow me to watch over your father while you rest a while.

She lived once. It says it right here. And yet it mostly says on this piece of paper that she died. That her birth was her death. But there were two events. And mostly, it says she was my baby. Someone whispered it.

I heard it loud and clear.


  1. Yes. I am fortunate - I have a birth certificate and a death certificate. Immutable proof from a government agency - he was here, real. My one true thing.

    I have seen my mother Ill - desecrated by a bladder infection of all things. They kept telling me the confusion was normal. It frightened me terribly all the same.

  2. Love. Love to you, love to Lucia in all her ways of being. Love to your father. Love surrounding, all within. Love.

  3. My words are few these days, but this was a really breathtaking post. I really, really love the way you write.

  4. She mattered so much. She still matters, every day.

  5. Crying here, Angie. Sending strength to your dad, strength to you and K as you help him through this. Honoring your Lucia. And loving you. Please call if you need a space for all this- I am here.

  6. I'm glad you finally have that piece of paper with Lucy's name on it.

    One of the hardest things for me (and, incidentally, for my own dad) to come to terms with is that there isn't always something to do, something we can do. I love the way this post connects you and your dad. I love the way it closes.

  7. Just gorgeous, Angie. I'm sorry about your dad and hope he feels better soon. So glad you got the certificate. xo

  8. Why do you make me cry? Over and Over again Angie? It is so hard to watch our parents grow old, their health decline, so little we can do but love them.
    It is so hard to have our children die, to not be able to watch them grow old, and nothing we can do.

    "You didn't dream me, Mama. I was here. I was real. You don't have to do anything anymore, but just rest."

    This breaks my heart over and over. Oh God Angie this just breaks my heart. I haven't had the courage to request the stillbirth certificate...but I know I must. Sending love to you and hoping your dear father returns to good health shortly.

  9. Beautiful. I have goosebumps. My doorbell rang a little bit ago. It's 11pm at night here. I was at the door in seconds, but no one was there. It freaked me out, but I settled down and decided to look at your blog…something I haven't done in months…and here is your post. This is so surreal, and oddly comforting. I will allow my sweet Gracie to be. To be the sunshine on my face, the wind whispering through my hair, the doorbell ringing late at night…I will allow her to be.
    Thank you, Angie.

  10. I wish it was just a birth certificate.

    But it says his name, and underneath that it lists my name in the spot for mother. And my husband's name in the spot for father. In writing. Notarized. On a government document. His name.

    Love to you and your family.

  11. She was real Angie. And I feel her through your words and I think about her often.

    Sending strength and restful wishes to your dad Angie. xx

  12. Sophie is right, I think of her, of you, of you all. She was real.

  13. Again, you nailed it with the way you write. This post brought tears to my eyes. She is very real and always will be. And you are her mother. ((hugs))

  14. You know, closure is such an overused and misused word but it popped into my head when I read this. It's so hard to spend years in that state where your brain whirs around with no resting place. How will you parent Lucy? (How will I parent R?) How can I stop feeling lousy and get on with it--whatever 'it' is?

    I hope your Dad's feeling better.

    Happy is another word that is grossly misunderstood. I can't tell if my happy is more or less than it used to be but, for what it's worth, I'm happy to hear this news about Lucy's official certificate and the peace of mind it's given you.

  15. So glad you got that piece of paper. No such thing here. :( I don't think people realize what it means to have it. She was here. She was real. She existed. I didn't just dream her.

    I hope your dad is feeling better soon. It's hard to watch our parents age. :(


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