Archive for January, 2010


Once upon a time my prose got published in the newspapers. It was very nice, as the editor admired my work and he in turn became a mentor of sorts.

Until I tried my hand at poetry, and after submitting about ten poems or so to him, he told me, “Just stick to prose.”

And I halted all attempts at poetry, admitting to myself that I was too prolix a personality to be writing poetry.

But last week while scrubbing dishes an idea came to me, and it was in the shape of a poem.

“Stick to prose.” Those words echoed in my head.

Still, my fingers flew to the keyboard and I banged away. Without allowing time for a good ripening, I sent that poem away to Angie to consider it for publication on the amazing Still Life 365. (I haven’t had time to follow it daily but whenever a snatch of time allowed it, I had been blown away by what was published. I truly think Angie had provided a gift to the world by setting this blog up.)

Several hours ago, Angie told me my poem will be published tomorrow (which is today now).  I could not help think of what the editor had told me years ago, “Just stick to prose.” “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” I muttered. But, wiping my drool from the corner of my lips, I also know he will never ever chance upon this poem, which made me a bit relieved.  He was like a father figure to me for a little while, so this attempt at a poem felt like an act of defiance.

And speaking of defiance, grief is audacious. R told me a few days about how some ten percent of our genome came from viruses. They were foreign, but managed to become a part of our DNA. Human DNA consists of genetic contributions from bacteria and other foreign organisms. Fascinating!–  Grief is like that too. It becomes a part of you. You slough and slough, you shed and shed, but it always grows back into a part of you. It is a part of you. I’ve been thinking, which great nation, which great culture never experienced death and grief? None. It makes me accept grief a bit better.

And if you can bear to sting your eyes with my attempt at poetry, it’s here.


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Please grow old with me

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” ~ Winne-the-Pooh

Please grow old with me, because I cannot bear the thought of having no one to talk to,  someone who had seen the worst of me, who knows my little quirks and habits. Even if you seldom respond to the emails I shoot off to you (Isn’t this place cool? Why don’t we visit Syria?? Don’t you think this is a neat thing to organize our house? When will we ever get to a beach?? What about this movie? Should we go to this event? I think we should try this restaurant…) and that drives me really nuts, at least I have someone to email to, and to complain about.

Please grow old with me, even if I will never stop complaining about the paper towels you leave in your pants pockets when I take the laundry out. Please grow old with me, even if I’ll never stop grumbling about having to iron your clothing (and I especially dis-enjoy ironing pants and shirts). And I will never stop rolling my eyes when you pour an entire cup of soysauce  on to your rice, and burp after a meal.

Please grow old with me, because afterall, you do make me laugh. And smile. And sigh.

Recounting travel stories will be so much more fun when we do it together. Drinking in the sunset while panting up a storm will be so much better with my arm linked in yours. Please grow old with me.

So we will watch each other sag and grow wrinkles and have age spots crawl all over us. I will not laugh if you need to remove your dentures and soak them in a glass overnight. I will hold and support you if you need to lean on me. We will keep telling each other, “Now you’re really senile!” We will point fingers at each other about the disorganized photos and argue about how much salt is needed in a dish. If your eyesight fails first, I will glad read to you, every single thing under the sun.  And I guess we will never stop disagreeing about money. And movies. And ideas. And things to do.

Please grow old with me, so we can watch our children grow. So I will always have you next to me as they each grow independent, feathers a-ruffling and wings a-flapping, out to see the world. Please grow old with me, so we can perpetuate to our children, the myth of old couples living somewhat amicably together in old age.

The thought of life without you is simply unbearable, even if sometimes I tell you to get out of the kitchen, my territory. Missing one is very bad enough. And extremely heartbreaking.

Please grow old with me.

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ordinary days

I’m coming up for light and air for a few seconds. It’s been kinda wet here, which is good, which makes me want to be under layers of blankets eating trays of truffles reading heaps of trashy novels. But the truth is I have been busy doing nothing. Putting out fires. When we bought this house we did not know it has a self-renewing-clutter function. Clutter keeps popping up. They multiply overnight as I sleep, a smug smile on my face thinking about the big bag of stuff I am going to haul to Goodwill soon. I’ve had enough. I’ve resolved to reduce like crazy this year. Simplify and all that. And it’s hard work. We’ve got stuff, lots and all kinds. Including invisible ones that needs to be sloughed away.

I also have a confession. I said I will not buy anything but I bought this:

Before you start wagging your fingers at me, let me tell you its virtues: it requires hardly any detergent, it dries fast (so no yucky mold or anything of that sort), its bright colors make washing dishes a fun job. It’s made from recycled corn cobs and peach pits, so eco-savvy. Oh, did I forget to mention you don’t eat it even though it’s name is Spa.ghetti? You scrub your pans and dishes with it. You can buy it here, if you wish. May your dish-washing be more fun and guilt-free in 2010. (But don’t send me death threats if you find you do not like them!)

The other thing is, the girls’ notebook had been acting up and would not connect to the internet so they have been using this same one that I am banging on right now, which means vastly reduced internet time (on top of putting out fires). I’m afraid to post something because I have not been to my Google Reader in ages. It used to be what I do before I even go to the news. I’m afraid I may be missing some big news in blogland and inadvertantly writing something stupid here because of missing out on the news. My mind is not often far from this circle of women, but the mouse and keyboard had not been mine much.

In any case someone sent me this link a few days back and I had been choking on it. It is very moving indeed and made me wish I have a lot of ordinary days, many many of them stretched out ahead, almost endless. Ordinary but peaceful, joyful and filled with chocolates, bubbles, glitter, grass, clouds, sand and sea. Ordinary is a gift. I wish we all have such ordinary days. I was thinking of all of us mightily when I watched and as I listened and tried not to bawl. We all deserve ordinary days like these. After a storm, ordinary days are priceless.

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lost time

(Thank you for all your lovely wishes for Lyra! They mean so much and are deeply appreciated.)

So that big day which was Lyra’s first birthday came and went. She was doted upon (multi-fold on that special day) and we could not help but marvel and gasp at how fast time had passed.

As I nursed her to sleep that night, enveloped in darkness, memories played back movies. I saw vividly the day we brought her home from the hospital, exhaling with relief to see her in our home, after waiting for months to see if she would be born safe and sound. I saw R bringing her in in her car-seat, in deep slumber, her face an almost replica of her brother, and colliding disbelief, relief, and belief unleashed tears of joy and sorrow.

From that day on, time seemed to have raced on as she grew and grew and grew, passing one milestone after another. She is still an incredible sight for me to behold, when she toddles across the room to me, waving a prized loot in her hand, grinning and drooling at the same time, yabbering and revealing her six tiny teeth in her mouth. It made me think of the time when time flowed like thick, slow tar, threatening to harden and set as I grovel, whine and thrash about. Home became hovel and strength and determination needed to be mustered to put food on the table. Smiling took muscular perseverance. There was a time when everyone else seemed to live on a parallel and unrelated universe. People filled their calendars with all things fun or mundane but there they are, diligently moving forward, actively engaged in the world. I watched in awe, mixed with disbelief, as I crouched and hid, disappeared from social happenings and only wished to be invisible.

From the time after Ferdinand died, until the day Lyra was born- those two years (technically 18 months, but it was like two years; time is elastic) were time lost to us. We could not do much else but lived on a most primal level- survive. Eat (something), sleep (trying hard), move (with great effort). Most things required great will. There was first the grappling with reality, and then there was the decision to try again, followed by months of anxiety, surrender and waiting- to see if lightning strikes again, in the same spot. Our lives could not have been more boring to an outsider. Almost useless. We were mostly just primitive beings trying to stay alive, and mostly useless to the world,for we had nothing much to contribute, it seemed, but dispair, sighs and anxieties.

I wish it wasn’t so. I would love to have 18 months lived differently. Joyfully, with ease, no worries. Not just making our home a fantastic one, but also making a difference in our community.(Or at least keep our front yard clean so we stop receiving “reminder letters” from our HOA, whom I am sure will throw a big party and shed tears of joy when we move away.)

It is never too late, of course, for there is always work to be done. There will be places where extra pairs of hands are welcomed. I look back at those months of lost time and can only chalk it up to lack of personal will. I needn’t have allowed myself to be detered. But I did and there is nothing to be done now, only to swim forward with the current of time, forging forward, hoping to make up for the lost time.

Although, is it possible to make up for lost time? To me, it seems that period of darkness has been frozen, and is untouchable. Serving, perhaps, as a warped tribute to my lost child.

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Today you turn one.

Proof that the wheel of Time faithfully turns, no matter what.

Your glee tickles me alive.

Only two phrases today:

Deep Joy. Profound Gratitude.

We’re gonna spoil you rotten today, sweet.

Happy First Birthday, my sweet baby. We love you much and forever.

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So the new year is here. What’s new for you?

Not much for me. I resolved not to do commit to the silly habit of resolutions but I still made a mental list of “desirables” and “wanna-be’s”. I made R print some new photos so we can switch out last year’s photos with something different (and my, how fast the girls are growing!). We went through our garage and threw out boxes that we had kept because– “Oh, this box is sturdy/a-good-size we should really keep it in case we need to send something to somebody!”. I donated about 8 pairs of shoes to Goodwill because they no longer fit me and really I don’t think they ever will again. I am not kidding but my shoe size has changed from 7.5 ten years ago to 9 in 2009- I am sure your shoe size changed too, no?!

I feel nothing much is very new even though time continues to tick and the earth continues to orbit, because for some reason I feel my grief is still fresh, the scab is not tough enough yet.

For the month of December the girls could not stop talking about Lyra turning one soon. They kept asking what cake will I bake for her? How are we going to celebrate her birthday? What presents will we give her?

And all I could think of was how, last year in December, I was living on the edge of sanity and insanity, sitting on the brink of life and death, not sure what the new year would bring for us. Will she be born safe and alive? That was my question. And for the most of 2009 I spent in disbelief that she is indeed here and how fast she is growing.

This past December, I kept thinking how fast Lyra has grown, and I kept thinking, I am still in disbelief. Disbelief that Ferdinand had died. And that I am still intensely sad about it. And people commenting on how I have three girls and no boys just is downright rotten.

Like today, I was in a kids apparel shop and the sales associate came and tell me she loved my skirt. Then she asked what sizes I was looking for. When I was paying she said, “So you have three girls!” Again, I nodded and then she asked, “No boys?” and I wanted to say, “Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?” But I did not. I also took a step back to size her up, to see if she could handle me telling her, “Why, yes, I do have a boy! But guess what- he is dead.” I did not tell her, I only sighed deeply within and tell myself that would not be the last time.

But today I did not cry. Yesterday I did. We had to put away our tree and ornaments and I have a box just for Ferdinand’s ornaments. How incredibly sick and sad, to have a box for your dead baby’s ornaments. It felt wrong and horrible and I could not stop stewing over it and finally during dinner I boiled over and totally broke down.

It was pretty sudden and not the usual expected during dinner, and everyone stared at me. Val was the first to ask if it was because of Ferdinand and R just stared at his glass of red wine and did not say a word. I just covered my face and shook my head and bawled some more. What can I say? I am tired of repeating. I. am. sad. sad. sad. sad. sad. that my child died. I still cannot believe it.

Were he not cremated, I would be off again, running to the grave to dig, one more time, to see one more time, to be certain, that indeed he was dead, and buried.  In my mind, in my heart, I am always digging into the cold soil, trembling fingers seeking to find a body, a small body, cold and stiff, that once curled up in my womb. Just to touch, just to make sure.

So, it’s nothing new, really. And I loathe to have to repeat this. I am having less and less time for the internet, and sometimes I think since I have nothing much and new to say, perhaps I ought to close this blog. But I also wonder, where else do I go to spill my thoughts? To openly and shamelessly sob about my always-new grief?

I do tell myself, it is going to change. I am going to handle it better, grow wiser over time. But right now, Time is not doing its job, as people love to promise, that Time will heal all wounds. I do not really believe in that, because I know Time itself will not do the work. I gotta change, the way I think and deal has to change. And I know I have changed. But my heart, it still aches. It’s nothing new.

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