Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Yellow House

The first time I walked through the yellow house I knew it was home.  We already lived a block and a half away from my parents, on the corner of the same street, and I didn't know how Ben would feel about living in a house even closer.  The yellow house was just three doors down.  But with my hands protectively over my belly I imagined bringing what was then just a three or four week old fetus home to the yellow house someday.There was so much to look forward to then, like the big mulberry tree from which Gabriel's tire swing would hang. The convenience of having my parents three doors down when Ben was working such long hours was also part of the appeal. We would be the first renters that the cheerful yellow house had ever known but we moved in knowing the owner would be willing to sell and we would be willing to buy if everything worked out as well as we expected it would.  

When I was discharged from the hospital to bring Gabriel home under hospice care I thought what all the doctors and nurses thought:  That I was bringing my baby boy home to die.  But he didn't.  He lived for more than one week after our discharge.  After Gabriel was diagnosed with anencephaly I braced myself for the very real probability that I would never get to bring him home.  By God's grace, though, many of my prayers were answered, including my wish to bring Gabriel home.  For several days the yellow house was full of the family that I had always wanted. 

I wonder if the house would feel so empty today if I had never known what it was like to live there with my family.  It's not the home I thought it would be.  Gabriel died in our living room.  I haven't had a large group of people over since Gabe's funeral.  Ben moved out.  Getting a second large dog has necessitated both of them spending most of the day outide.  I share the yellow house with a roommate who is polite and clean and pays his share of the rent on time every month, but who I hardly know.

Recently I woke up during the night to hear my roommate's son, Jordan, crying.  I haven't completely lost my mind, it's not like I imagined that it was Gabriel or my own child that I heard.  Instead, in my middle-of-the-night stupor the knowledge was still at the forefront of my mind that someone else's child's cries, not Gabriel's, were echoing in my halls. 

Lately I've noticed that my response to things just isn't normal.  I'm angrier, or more sad, or more elated by ordinary things than I should be.  And hungrier.  When I'm not being governed by those emotions, my craving for physical affection is dominating my thoughts.  I feel like I'm just a walking body of impulses holed up in a lonely yellow house. 

"What are you doing?" the woman washing her hands at the sink next to me asked this afternoon as I stood nose-to-nose with my reflection under the flourescent lights of the second floor bathroom.

"I just discovered I've got wrinkle lines under my eyes."

"You look too young to have wrinkles."  I resisted my impulse and willed my eyes not to roll. "Well, get a good wrinkle cream.  And some sunglasses, so you'll stop squinting at the sun."  

I was grateful for her response.  People like to say things like "All those lines just tell your story.  They make you who you are, you earned them."  That's a load of crap.  I'll take smooth skin and a living child any day, no matter how much I publicly try to shrug off how affected I am.  So while big part of me wanted to detour past my office, down the stairwell for a cheeseburger and beer and some sloppy making out with a stranger, her complacency in response to my great revelation calmed me.

I hope she's there when I find my first gray hair.

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