Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just A Bridge Away

In our backyard in Bakersfield the morning sun was already baking our lawn, but in Oregon the sky was overcast and the air was wet but cool when we pulled into a parking lot at Sirrosis Park in The Dalles.  I was drawn right away to the playground, a sophisticated complex of tunnels and bridges and stairways. As we unloaded the girls from their car seats Marcos' mom approached us and we all walked to the playground together, the sight only getting better the closer we got.  Eden sprinted ahead to begin climbing to the tops of the various slides while Marcos' mom took a seat on a bench.

"Would you mind holding Delilah?  So I can go play with Eden?"  "Grandma Nichols" happily obliged, reaching for the sweet smiling baby that charmed her Oregon family, and I dashed off to one of the structure's towers.  Eden was already engrossed in the slide and laughing with every attempt while her daddy waited for her at the bottom, so I worked my way through the maze.  I unsuccessfully tried the suspended balance beam, scaled two side by side tires, tried my hand at a set of monkey bars and parallel bars, and attempted  a stack of tires meant to serve as a ladder.

At some point I overhead my mother-in-law say to Marcos, "She said she was going to play with Eden, but it looks like she's the one doing all the playing!"  It was true.  Though I intermittently watched Eden as she played with her cousins or even by herself, or took a few moments to observe Delilah in the swings, I was lost in my own adventure.  Here and there I caught shadows of the 5 year old little boy that should have been with us, doing all of the things Eden just isn't old enough or coordinated enough or tall enough to do yet, sneaking up on his sister one minute, then holding her feet to assist her on the monkey bars the next.  Gabriel's memory, or more accurately, his hypothetical, is always there, a part of every experience.  That's my normal.

Around us the trees stretched high and park-goers weaved between them with their dogs, but not a trace of litter could be found to indicate that anyone had ever been to the park before we got there.  Other families arrived, their children racing up and down and across the child-sized fort.  Eden would stop to laugh or smile or shout orders at them, then pick right back up with whatever activity she happened to be performing.

While in Oregon we toured The Bonneville and Dalles dams, went on a cruise on the river, saw Multnomah falls, watched the trains dart by on their extensive railroads, and waded in the Columbia River - Just a few of the sights that Oregon has to offer.  But of all that we squeezed into that trip, in my memory our visit at Sirrosis Park will remain the most vivid.  There, I felt like we had a moment of Heaven, everyone there, happy, playing as they like, but together.  My heart felt full. I couldn't see my son, but at times, I even had to search for Eden and Delilah.  No matter where I turned, no matter where I went, there I felt like every one of them - Gabriel, Eden, Delilah, Marcos and even Baby Cude - were just a bridge away.  There I felt surrounded by everything I could ever want.  I felt whole.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Am I Blue?

The blueberry bush sits dry and likely, dead, but still a part of my home amid the greenery in my front yard.  It seems like watering it when needed is such a simple task that there is no real good reason why it shouldn't get done.  But there are no simple tasks these days, and many things don't get done.  Every once in a while I am horrified to discover a dirty diaper under a pile of laundry, unsure as to how long the diaper has been hidden there.  I feel like I must be the biggest slob in the world, which doesn't make sense, because I also feel that I am constantly on the go.

Nothing gets the attention it should these days.  Not my kids, not my husband, not my dogs, not my house - certainly not my work.  Direct file referrals are pouring in for me these days, and I'm on the brink of two appellate decisions that I am fairly confident will be favorable.  Maybe they will be.  Maybe they won't be.  But either way, I am moving files - exactly what clients want.

Actually, clients want a lot of things.  They want to be your priority.  They want everything done right now.  Everything is a rush.  Everything should have been done already.  Nothing can wait until tomorrow.  Everything is extreme.  EVERYTHING.

There was a time in my life when I was motivated by this kind of pressure.  How many A papers have I written in the 12 hours preceding their deadline?  The appeals mentioned above were written and submitted within a crunched statutory time limit.  I can pat myself on the back, for I have shown a tremendous capacity to take pressure, grief, anger, and pain and turn it into steam to propel me through life.

But I feel like I've run out of steam.  I don't know why.  I guess we all have our breaking point and I suppose my breaking point is a lot farther and a lot less destructive than others' might be, but it's still devastating.

It is then that the weight of the loss of my son crushes me.  I live with his absence daily, the ache is constant and painful.  Now, as I tread water to stay afloat I feel the hole inside of my heart being crushed by the heaviness of having lost my son.  Five years ago today I held my son in my arms through his seizures and labored breathing until his heart beat one last time, and he died.  I felt his tiny body stiffen with death in my arms, and I kissed him one last time before giving him over to a very kind and solemn undertaker so that he could burn my little boy to ashes.  I took those ashes and placed them in a little, tomb-like cavity and marked his place in this world with a little plaque, and a few times a year I visit that final resting space but every single day I long to feel him again.

Am I blue?  How can I know anymore?  How can I distinguish between the depression that I have experienced all of my life, and the grief of the traumatic experiences that I've been through, and the postpartum depression compounded by back-to-back pregnancies, and the stress of every day life?  When are my responses selfish, and when are they self-loathing, and when are they natural, and when are they wallowing?  I don't know anymore.

Above all I am thankful that Gabriel was trusted to me to love and care for.  I know that this was no accident, I know that I was blessed - Blessed with the gift of a child, blessed to be charged with the care of a terminally ill unborn baby, blessed that I got to spend ten days with him when most people walking in my shoes will never get that opportunity.  I am blue, but I am blessed.  I don't have time to water plants, but even in life's rush I carry Gabriel with me every day.  His life and his loss are a part of me. Even as the branches of the blueberry brush dry and harden and threaten to break every day, I keep and guard them.  Life isn't easy, hearts don't break evenly, and all I can do is hold on for the ride.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Days that Change the World

Two accomplishments that I get to take credit for, though I can really only thank God for, are the opportunities to be a mother to Gabriel, Eden, and Delilah, and a big sister to Monica, Timothy, and Victoria.

I remember so clearly Victoria's first day of daycare. It coincided with my first day of my senior year of high school, and I cried when having to leave her with her new sitter, after having spent the entire summer looking after her myself.  Victoria was the first person to teach me, truly, about selfless love.  I only ever wanted to give her the world.

So, it's no surprise that this, the morning of her high school graduation, I have been teary and nostalgic for the days when she was just a little girl.  I have been recalling her first day of kindergarten, the day she transferred to Colonel Nichols halfway through her first grade year, her First Communion, and her graduation from junior high, which hardly feels like a year ago.  I remember her in my own milestone moments - The day I found Sean dead, when I came home still in shock and still regretful that I had missed Victoria's classroom Valentine's Day party, that little 7 year old girl wrapped her arms around me in a big hug and said, "I miss Sean."  I remember the day my cat Lily had kittens, on Victoria's third birthday, and upon seeing the first kitten for the first time Victoria saying "Lily has a mouse!"  I remember standing by her side as she held Delilah, her first goddaughter, to be baptized.  I remember her standing by my side on my wedding day.  I remember standing behind her, beaming with pride, as she delivered her closing arguments during this year's mock trial competition, for which I had the privilege of coaching her.  This day came all too quickly, but the years leading up to this day have been packed with memories.  What a gift, to have been this girl's big sister.

I suppose Victoria's graduation, as all graduations are for me now, is especially touching when I consider that in the blink of an eye, my girls will be graduating too.  And the sweet becomes bitter when I think about my only son, who will never graduate from high school - Something I knew several weeks before he was born.  Before he was born, the doctors told me Gabriel wouldn't live long, and though I hoped with trepidation, I never dreamed that my little boy would be the one to defy the odds and live ten days.  Those ten days have changed the world.

With a bittersweet, teary but happy joyful longing, I invite you to celebrate Gabriel's 5th Birthday by participating in this year's 10 Days to Change the World:

Day 1:  Friday, June 10 - For the first time since his birth, Gabriel's birthday will fall on a Friday, which was also the day he was born.  At 3:19 p.m. my sweet boy showed his face to this world.  I invite you to take a moment at 3:19 on June 10, 2016, to remember his birthday.  Share pictures of your clock and where you are on Facebook.

Day 2:  Saturday June 11 - The annual cupcake day.  When Gabriel made it to 24 hours, our family celebrated with cupcakes - While Gabriel and I slept.  This year, enjoy a cupcake to celebrate with us the day that Gabriel became one of the only 25% of anencephalic babies to live past 24 hours.

Day 3 - Sunday June 12 - Wristband Day!  This year I have awareness wristbands, the proceeds for which will be used to fund the next Magic Mullet Run fundraiser for Duke University's anencephaly study.  Contact me ASAP to get your wristbands for $3 each.  Children's size available.

Day 4 - Monday June 13 - Finally getting comfortable enough with my delicate little bundle, we took Gabriel's footprint on this day.  This year, find a way to leave your footprint in your community, your tattoo on your town.  

Day 5 - Tuesday June 14 - This year would be Gabriel's 5th birthday, and he would be starting kindergarten.  Last year we celebrated what would have been his pre-school years by asking people to donate to their local pre-schools or Head Start programs.  This year, I invite you to do the same.  As most schools will be out for summer break, consider presenting a teacher you know with a gift card for supplies for her classroom in the fall.

Day 6 - Wednesday June 15 - On this day we FINALLY introduced Gideon to Gabriel.  Give your own furbaby a hug on this day, and do something special for him/her/them.

Day 7 - Thursday June 16 - Bowling night!  My friends and I bowl on Thursday nights, and we have a great time.  Life is short, and busy, and bowling nights are our weekly opportunity to gather and nourish the friendships that have carried us each through some challenging times.  Take this day to spend some time with your friends, do something fun - Try bowling!

Day 8 - Friday June 17 - This year Marcos and I will be heading to the beach for this weekend.  Friday we'll be riding to Oxnard so I can appear at a hearing in the morning, then we'll be heading up the coast where later in the evening, we will meet some of our friends for a beach weekend.  Before they arrive, Marcos and I will have a chance to spend some time together, have lunch, walk on the beach.  Take this day to spend some one-on-one time with someone you love.

Day 9 - Saturday June 18 - Community clean up!  We will be on the coast, and looking for a local park or beach to clean.  I invite you to find a place in your community in need of a bit of clean up, and volunteer your time to help.

Day 10 - Sunday June 19 - Father's Day.  A bittersweet day the year that Gabriel was born - He was still with us, against all odds, but we did not know how much time we might still have.  And we didn't know that our time would be up the following day.  Honor your father today.  And honor your children.  Not a single day is promised to us, and every day is a gift.

Angelversary - Monday June 20 - As has become custom, I will be releasing balloons on this day.  Time and location to be announced if you wish to participate with me - If not, please try to release a balloon or lantern in memory of Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude, whose brief life of 10 days is still changing the world.

I look forward, as I do every year, to sharing these days with my family and friends.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Who Needs Tomorrow?

The opening chords wring my heart every time, haunting me with a combination of regret and relief.  Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight" never ceases to stop me in my tracks.  In the first few years after Sean's death, I could barely listen to the song without crying.  The words fill me at once with sorrow for the brevity of our time together and more importantly the untimeliness of his death, and satisfaction that my memories of our last few days together remain so very vivid.  A part of me knew it was all coming to an end - I just didn't know it would end as it did.

Many nights, after all the patrons had left and I had locked the doors, I would play the song on the jukebox at Charly's, now the Wright Place, and saturate myself in the lyrics and the memories.  I always feel Sean's presence most strongly through music, and in that music, when I am alone in the bar.

I didn't know that the last time I closed The Wright Place would be the last time I closed The Wright Place.  If I had known, I would have played that song one last time.

My one night shift a week had become an increasing strain on our marriage.  We are living deep in the trenches of early parenthood.  Our girls, just 17 months apart, are only 2 years old and 7 months old.  We couldn't ask for better children - They are healthy, bright, as well-behaved as we could reasonably ask.  But they are a lot of work.  And we've decided that for now, that is work we must do together, night after night, to strengthen our family.  There are still so many turns that life could take, roads that life may lead us down, and life promises us nothing except that it will keep on going, ready or not.

Still, it was with an aching heart that I resigned my Tuesday night shift at The Wright Place.  The shift has been mine for almost 7 years now, since I returned from law school.  Tuesday nights were waiting for me after three maternity leaves.  I've collected the March Madness brackets by the close of the bar on Tuesday night before the tournament begins for four years.  I trained Leanne on a Tuesday night.  I've been doing the liquor inventory on Tuesday nights for years.  One Tuesday night, several years ago, I broke the weeknight sales record.  The bartender rotation has gone round and round but for the last nearly 7 years, Tuesday nights have been generally consistent.  For nearly 7 years, they have been mine.

Some things never change, until they do.  The decision was sudden and shocking to my bosses; it shocked the shit out of me.  And it is not without sadness that I've not reported to The Wright Place for the last three weeks.  I didn't even get to say good-bye.

Bob Seger begs, "Why don't you stay?"  After all, who needs tomorrow?  Tomorrow is not a guarantee, and I know that well.  I never got to say good-bye to Sean either.  I needed tomorrow, but that tomorrow never came. But as clearly as I heard the words "Let's make it last; let's find a way," I could also hear "I long for love, like everyone else does. I know I'll keep searching even after today."  My burning desire for love couldn't be extinguished even by the sobering sight of Sean's lifeless body.

The world kept on spinning, as the world does, and the sun continued to rise, as the sun will, and at the end of the day somewhere things are ending, and somewhere else they are just beginning.  And we just have to keep moving.

Maybe I'll be back someday. Maybe I'll continue to host my annual Anti-Valentine's Day Party, an event that started in dark remembrance of the day Sean died, but which has evolved into one of the most successful events of the year.  I don't know what tomorrow brings, and I don't even know that I'll have a tomorrow.  I know that I have today, right now, this moment.  I'm doing all that I know how to do to live today, right now, in this moment.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two Pink Streaks

Some mornings I'm still not convinced my reflection is really me.

I guess the postpartum acne started about two months after Delilah was born.  In the beginning I didn't think much of the few blemishes, but as the few began to multiply, I became horrified.  This wasn't part of our deal.  I had never had acne problems, not even in high school.  I always figured it was part of an unspoken agreement with God.  I had big hair that I didn't know how to control and I wore an A-cup through most of high school, but in exchange I got clear skin and long, beautiful legs.  Seemed like a fair trade, and while probably not how I would have prioritized assets (given the choice, I would have opted for boobs), not a bad shake.

Even after Gabriel was born, I held up fairly well.  My son wasn't here to hold, but my body didn't bear the tell tale signs of childbirth.  No c-section scar, no stretch marks, no acne, minimal weight gain that I shed with ease.  But for the scars on my heart, I could continue on as normal, which was a relief when I found myself single and on the man-hunt again.

Marcos has pointed out that he barely knows me not pregnant.  Indeed, we've been together less than three years, and I've spent 18 months of those three years pregnant.  I know that he doesn't mind the belly that will never go away without surgery, the acne, the 20 extra pounds I'm still carrying from Eden.  He doesn't seem to care that even while my face has erupted like a teenager's, creases are forming at the corners of my eyes and around my mouth.  My hands, constantly at work, look dry and old and are chronically swollen from rheumatoid arthritis, but fortunately are not yet deformed.

When I look back at my reflection, those are the things that I see.  I am not, nor do I think I ever will be, that woman who embraces her imperfections.  I don't affectionately refer to my stretch marks as those of a mommy tiger who has earned her stripes.  The wrinkles are not laugh lines.  They are all just indications to me that I finally look as old as I feel.

My vanity stretched to its maximum, my confidence hanging by a thread, I set out to have a crown replaced.  The crown is part of a dental implant that I got when I was 14 years old.  While the implant is now the standard in tooth replacement, twenty years ago when I was struck in the mouth with a softball, implants were still a fairly new and sexy treatment.  I underwent 14 hours of oral surgery by the then-premiere oral surgeon in Bakersfield, and had my crown done by a prosthodontist of the same caliber.  Neither of these very skilled, very expensive practitioners had the foresight to realize that at age 14, my gums and teeth and bones were still growing and eventually, that crown would recede back into my gums while my other teeth grew longer than and asymmetrical to the crown.  The process was slow and incremental.  Little by little, I noticed that in photos, all I could see was the short crown.

I expressed my petty concern with my dentist, who was able to write up a request for authorization to replace the crown so that half of the cost would be covered by insurance.  After coughing up my co-pay, the dentist and I embarked on what ended up being a 5 visit process.  Today, when he cemented the new crown into place, I felt my confidence immediately restored, even if just a bit.

As "they" say, youth is wasted on the young.  I wish now that I had appreciated things about my body in my twenties - The flat belly, yes, but also the ability to stand on my feet for 8 hours, to have joints that - while not pain free - didn't hurt so much.  I wish that I had recognized that I used to be able to walk into a room and turn heads, not because I was so pretty, but because there is simply something light and easy and beautiful about a woman in her twenties, even a woman who carries the weight of dead boyfriends and dead babies.  I was so busy then, bearing the burden of grief, that I didn't enjoy the freedom of being twenty-something.  And now here I am, mourning my twenties rather than enjoying the ease of being thirty-something.

Woven discreetly into my mass of big, thick hair which I've learned to - if not control, at least manage, are two hot pink streaks of color, extensions that were placed when I had my hair trimmed last week for the first time in a year.  With less than an inch cut, and two extra pieces of hair added, I felt lighter than I had in some time.  I knew that the following week, I would get my crown replaced, and that the acne was clearing day by day.  I'll never be that girl in her twenties again - That girl fell in love with self-destructive men who would rather shoot themselves or move to South Carolina than stay with her, and that girl wasn't equipped to hold down a professional career AND mother two little girls responsibly.  That girl exploited herself to prove that she, and she alone, was in charge of her own body.  She didn't know how to be loved by someone that is kind, and good, and emotionally healthy.  She harbored guilt, way too much guilt, for one man's decision to pick up a gun and kill himself.  That girl made stupid financial decisions.  That girl was a selfish daughter and sister.  I don't want to be that girl again.

I don't want the darkness that came with being young and light and pretty in that way that all twenty-somethings are pretty.  I want love, security, a stable life for my husband and daughters and me.  Sometimes, I want to feel a little rebellious.  Sometimes I want to get pink in my hair, or turn a stranger's head when I've walked into a room.  But what I want most, I've already got.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

He Collected Me

The series finale of American Idol remains unviewed on my Hulu watch list.  For over a decade I watched the series and made a point of watching each season finale as it was broadcast.  Certainly, the show changed television, music, the way we consume music, the way stars are born.  But through the course of the years the show lost its magic.  Between changes in format, changes in judging panels, and changes in the method of voting, the final season of American Idol simply didn't have the sparkle of the first.

Unquestionably, the most poignant moment of the season was when the very first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, appeared as a guest judge and in a very pregnant and very emotional display, sang the song "Piece by Piece."  The song is a tender tribute to her stepfather, the man who took on the role of father for her when her biological dad abandoned her family.

I have no daddy issues.  My father was present, quite present, for my entire life.  He worked nights, and slept during the day while we were at school.  He packed our lunches, took us to the bus stop, went to softball practices, came to award ceremonies, and did everything that could be expected of a father and more.  Now, he watches my daughters five days a week and I know it was the right decision to have him provide care because every day, when he first sees them, he smiles with genuine joy that they are his for the next 9 hours.  He has set a high bar.

So, when I heard Kelly sing "Piece by Piece," I did not think of my own father.  I thought of the man who is father to my girls, and stepfather to my son.

I thought of my days as a single mom, caring for my son's memory and wondering if I would ever find a relationship that could bear the burden of my unusual but very deep relationship with my son.  I wondered if I would ever have a family that would openly include Gabriel.  He was my world, and I wasn't sure if anyone would ever want to live in our world.

Every day, in my home, Gabriel's name is mentioned.  On the wall of our stair case, his picture hangs with his sisters', and framed photos of him also have a place in our living room, family room, my bedroom, and Eden's bedroom.  On holidays, or sometimes just because I feel like it, Marcos treks with me and our daughters to the cemetery where my son's ashes rest.  Gabriel is my son; he is my girls' big brother; and Marcos is his stepfather.

Marcos didn't have to be the man that he is.  He didn't have to welcome both me and my son into his life.  Because of him, my son's memory can live.  Because of him, my girls know their big brother.  Because of him, my girls will know that they have a family history of neural tube defect and take the necessary precautions when they have their own children, because that part of our lives is not hidden.  Because of him, our girls will pray for their brother's intercession throughout their lives.  Because of him, I do not have to tuck my grief away and instead, I can heal.

He took the bits of a broken home, an unconventional mother and son, and he shaped us into a new family.  He refilled my heart with his love, and from that love our daughters were born, so that my heart was not only full but overflowing.  He has made it possible for me to hear someone call me "Mommy" every day - A sound I thought I might not ever hear.  Piece by piece he has taken an unstable, grieving woman, and made her as whole as she has ever felt.  A man can be kind.  A father can be great.  And he is.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Were He Not Romeo Called

In a box somewhere in my garage a baby name book gathers dust, and stuffed within its pages is a sheet of paper I can't bear to part with. Written lovingly on the lines of the paper are the names I first began to consider six years ago, when I was pregnant for the first time. Among them is the name that has always been, Eden; names that are long ruled out, such as Miranda, Violet, or Carolina (for the state where Ben's mom resides); the name we thought we were going to use for Gabriel, before his diagnosis, Jameson; the family-inspired name I finally, internally, agreed to relinquish to my brother, Leo; and the name that never fit with the last name Cude, but which made perfect sense with the last name Lopez - Joaquin.

And so, the story goes.  I lost that first baby.  Gabriel, once Jameson Michael Cude, was diagnosed with the fatal defect that would claim his life, and he became Gabriel, our Hero of God.  Nearly three years passed and my prayers were answered in the form of a baby girl we named Eden, our paradise, followed 17 months later by Delilah.  But before she was Eden, in the privacy of our home, she was EJoaq.  We had narrowed our selection down to Eden for a girl, and Joaquin for a boy, but of course we wouldn't know until the day she was born which name we would be using.  I kept our names private, rarely sharing our choices lest someone else be inspired.  Both were unique enough to make up for the very common last name, but not so unique that they were strange.When we learned we had another baby on the way, we had only to choose a girl's name - Joaquin was already set.  And again, would not be used.

Names are important to me, and I have put significant thought into the names of each of my children.  Joaquin, the Spanish version of the Hebrew Joachim, means "One who is established by God."  Saint Joachim was Mary's father, Christ's grandfather.  It was to be paired with the middle name Joseph, representing the two greatest male influences in the young Christ's life.  There were other connections too - My girls were born at San Joaquin Community Hospital, we live in the San Joaquin Valley, and the San Joaquin Valley is a type of Eden, the place where a great deal of the nation's produce is grown.  I anticipated obvious queries - "After Joaquin Phoenix?" - and weighed the particular negative connections - I was well into pregnancy when Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped from a Mexican prison.  Still, this name that I had stored away since the first signs of new life within me was what I wanted for my next son.

I've gotten much better at receiving news of impending birth since the girls came along, and I've even become a better sport when learning a boy is one the way.  When family remembers recently announced they were expecting a baby boy, I rolled with the news with surprising ease.  Maybe, just maybe, I was moving on.  Less than 24 hours went by before I learned that while I have come a long way, I still have a long way to go, when the family announced that this new baby boy is Joaquin.

After a double take, the tears welled uncontrollably, spilling onto my clothes as I drove to meet my mom for lunch.  I couldn't stop them even enough to hide my mother, and when she asked what was wrong, more fell as I sobbed to her about my silly problem.  The tears don't come easily these days, not since the Prozac, but there I was, crying like an idiot - over what?

I guess that's what's been most difficult.  The typical response seems to be, "You don't have a right to that name."  I know that.  "You can choose a different name."  I know that too.  "You can still use the name Joaquin."  Yes. I know. I know, I know, I know.  I know this is irrational, and selfish, and petty.  But it's honest, and the typical responses just seem to be a bit insensitive.  Or maybe I'm just too sensitive.

What were the chances that a name chosen for its relative uniqueness, still ranked in the 200s in terms of popularity for boy's names in the United States, would be chosen by someone in our own family?  And how can I use that name now, too, knowing that it would no longer be unique in our family?  How do I go to a baby shower, to birthday parties - especially if I never have another boy, but even if I do - and bring another Joaquin a baseball, glove, and bat?  What if there are no more boys in store for me? After two losses, I've had to come to terms with the fact that life doesn't go as we want or plan.  I am satisfied with my life as it stands - I have to be, and I have every reason to be, because it's an amazing life. .

What's in a name?  The question is famous, and rhetorical, meant only to demonstrate that our names are not our essence.  If a little boy is in the cards for us some day, he will be so much more than a name.  Still, a part of me will always grieve the little boy that might have been, the little boy who was, and now, the little boy Joaquin who will never be mine.