Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Dear "Mom 2":

I remember when you first referred to yourself as "Mom 2," in a routine e-mail.  I was taken by surprise; you already thought of me as your daughter.  I was not prepared to think of you as my mom.  Nevertheless, I was warmed by the gesture.  I was going to marry your son.  We were going to be a family.

Somewhere along the way, you disowned me.  Was it when I made the decision that you wouldn't have made, to carry my precious son to term despite his prognosis?  Was it when I urged you to come out for Gabriel's birth, the birth of your first born, and thus far only born grandchild?  Was it when I brought him home and gave him a life and death with dignity, although it hurt to spend ten days wondering how much time was left?

You just don't know - you'll never know - what you missed when you chose to miss out on Gabriel.  You can't imagine the love the filled the room, along with Gabriel's two parents, his two grandfathers, and two of his three grandmothers - but not you.  You'll never know the peace that was given to us, despite our loss, when we had the opportunity to meet that little boy.  You'll never know the most incredible person your son and I have ever met.

I think of your beautiful Southern home that I loved so much to visit, and the pretty details of your decorating, and the fresh scent of your linens and towels, and the family photos that line the hallway.  And I know that mine is no longer hanging there.  And I know that your only grandson's never has.

I know what it is to be a mother.  I know what it is to love your children above anyone else, and desire their happiness above anything else.  But I don't know how you, or your son, turned your back on me so coldly.  You both turned your back on me when I had already lost the biggest part of my world.  He just stopped loving me, and if you ever loved me too, it seems you also just stopped.  I was just a blip in the timeline of your lives.  Blip. After you had the nerve to call me your daughter, to compare our relationship to that lifelong, inevitable bond. And then you turned your back.  Blip.

I recall, fondly, watching you and your son dance to "Simple Man" at our wedding.  Today, the song causes me to swell with mixed emotions as I think of the simple conversation I will never get to have with my baby boy.

You taught your son to tie his shoes.  You taught your son to cook.  You taught your son to respect his elders.

You love your son; and I love mine.  But somewhere along the way you failed to teach your son what I never had an opportunity to teach mine:  You don't leave.  You don't give up.  You don't love with conditions.  You don't run when times get hard.  You brace yourself to face them.  You love your wife, even when it's hard.  Your promise is everything, until it's broken, and then your promises never mean anything again.

You failed to tell him not to hurt your daughter. You failed to feel your daughter's pain.

You called me your daughter.  But you never called me to ask how I was doing.  You didn't offer your shoulder to me to cry on; instead you offered my partner an escape.  You offered him safe harbor to run to when he abandoned me.

You called me your daughter.  But I don't regret that I could never call you my mother.

Today I took the sapphire earrings that you gave to your son to present to me when he proposed.  I opened the velvet box and observed the untarnished glitter of the metal and stones.  I closed the box, and placed it next to me in the passenger seat of my car and as I drove to work, I rolled down the window and threw the box to the side of the road.  I hope someone finds them and hocks them and either has a warm meal or gets very drunk tonight - Whatever makes him or her happy.

I don't need your earrings.  I don't need your "mothering."  I don't need your conditional love and support on your terms.

You called me your daughter, but some "mother" you are.  I suppose, though, we all take lessons from even the worst of mothers.  Thank you, for giving your son somewhere to run when he abandoned me, so that today I could be free to love the people who are worthy of my love.  Thank you for cushioning his blow and leaving me to flail, so that I could grow stronger and love harder and live better.  Thank you, for teaching me the kind of woman I never want to be - It's made me the kind of woman I hope I'll always be.


Sunday, September 21, 2014


Eden Capwell  was the blonde protagonist in the 1980s soap opera Santa Barbara.  And she was cool.   So when I was 13 years old I decided that when I had a daughter, I would name her Eden just like the character from the by-then-cancelled soap opera.

The name sorta stuck.  Every time I was pregnant, I considered it for the baby I was growing.  After the miscarriage and while carrying Gabriel, I stumbled across the name "Eliana," "The Lord answers our prayers."  It became Gabriel's selected middle name, in the event he were a girl and my Eden-to-be.  After Gabriel's diagnosis but before he was born, I began to sense that the next time around I would have a perfectly healthy baby girl, and she would be my Eden Eliana; my paradise, and the answer to my prayers.

But paradise was a long way away.  The life I knew was turned upside down before I could find myself living the life I dreamed of.

Although Eden's gender wasn't officially revealed until she was born, I knew in my heart she was a girl.  I was occasionally pricked with doubt as most people said I "looked" like I was carrying a boy.  But then one afternoon as I was walking down the hall from my office to the restroom, when two women, one with a little boy and a little girl in tow, stepped into the hall from another office.  The little boy looked at me and immediately ran to me.  He was probably about three.  He stayed with me even as I passed his mom, offering me the piece of chocolate in his hand, and never taking his eyes off of me.  That moment imprinted on me as the moment of greatest clarity that the baby I was carrying was indeed my sweet Eden.

Sometimes I look at Eden and I still can't believe she is real.  After all of the years, and the ups and the downs, and the hell that was this life without my son, my daughter came along and brought me Heaven on earth.  The baby girl I first imagined when I was 13 years old is here, and sometimes I still can't wrap my mind around her.

She is every bit my little girl - Stubborn, determined, at once independent and needy. I'm never quite sure what to do with her and most days I'm pretty sure I'm doing it all wrong. But until Eden, life never felt so right.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On a Saturday Night. . .

We're in September, and the Major League Baseball Playoffs are right around the corner.  The Mariners are poised to take the wild card slot and compete in the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They've never been to a World Series, but this year devout fans believe that they might.

On a Saturday night Eden was curled up on the floor after a long day of outings.  She rolled over for me for the first time - She'd done it for her daddy more than a week ago and we've been waiting for a repeat since.  It was close to 9:00, past her usual bedtime, but she was content, staring at the TV and sucking her thumb.  The Mariners were playing the A's for a shot at usurping them as the #1 wildcard contender, with a 2-2 score going into the 9th inning, and for the first time, I was "watching" a game with my baby girl. We watched Fernando Riley throw a daring change-up pitch with a 3-2 count.  We watched the A's try to steal second base, only to get thrown out by the catcher in a play that was first called safe.  Lying next to her I muttered, "Don't make me become a supporter of instant replay."  Sure enough, thanks to instant replay, the runner was called out, ending the 9th inning and sending the game into extra innings.

On a Saturday night I laid next to my baby girl and enjoyed a moment that I have waited for.  In that moment, I felt the bitter, and I felt the sweet.  In that moment, I never missed my son more.

With every milestone, every laugh, every back-to-belly roll, my heart floods at once with thankfulness for my baby girl and longing for my 3 year-old baby boy. I lost my son, and that is a hurt that will never go away.  Never.

On a Saturday night I laid beside my baby girl, feeling the missing presence of Gabriel deep within me, but also feeling hope.  With Eden, the impossible feels possible.  Living without my son, which once felt impossible, now feels bearable.  With Eden, despite the Mariners' ultimate loss last night, the playoffs, the World Series even, still feels within reach.  With Eden, though California is suffering in the parched summer of what is allegedly the worst drought we've ever seen, it still feels possible that this winter Bakersfield may still see snow for the first time since 1999.  With Eden, falling in love again with her, with Marcos, doesn't feel like a risk.  It feels safe.  It feels inevitable.  It feels like anything is possible.

Monday, September 8, 2014


It was the Sunday night before Labor Day, and I had unexpectedly been asked to work the closing shift at the bar. With the three day weekend I could sleep in the following day, so I agreed.  The night started out slow.  Jerry sat at one end of the bar and a few stragglers wandered in and out, but until about 8 o'clock business was only steady.

Around that time, my friends started to trickle in.  First Angie, then T.J., Troy, Lindsey, Blake, Shane and Chris.

"What are you smiling about?"  someone asked.

"I'm just so happy to have my friends here."

One day, you might wake up and find that everything has changed.  Your son is dead, and you're divorced, and you're re-building your life after it was blown apart shattered.  The friends who stood at your side on your wedding day are more like acquaintances now, not because of any sort of falling out, but simply because you're different people who live different lives - And because they aren't sure how to interact with you now that you've seen hell.

But there are a handful of friends who have walked with you through it all.  A couple of them, like Angie and T.J., were there when you did the unthinkable and buried your child.  A couple of them, like Troy and Shane, met you out for a drink when you just needed to escape.  They're the friends who knew they couldn't say anything to fix all that was wrong, but they stood there, holding you up when you wanted to fall.

And then there are the friends who chose to become your friends, even when you were at your worst.  Elise, who I'd known for years, but suddenly became one of the first people to whom I spilled the news of Gabriel's diagnosis.  Our friendship started when I thought the world was ending.  Or Lindsey, the friend who listens when I need her, but with whom I can sit in comfortable silence.  She's the friend that just shows up with an orchid on Gabriel's first birthday and makes blueberry lemon cupcakes on his second birthday and meets me for a drink and then comes out to a charity run at 7 on a Saturday on his third birthday.  Or Blake, who used to work with Ben; who had a front row seat as my marriage fell apart; who I got to keep in the divorce.

My life as I knew it disintegrated, but I was built back up again by people who make me better by showing me the kind of person I want to be.  They recognize my strengths.  They teach me how to improve where I am weak.  They do it all just by being there.  It feels weird at the age of almost-33 to say that I've got "new" best friends.  Best friends seem like something for kids.  They've become known to me simply as "the homies," and they're the best friends I've ever had.

They screened Marcos when he and I started dating.  He had to pass the homie test, and now he's been incorporated.  And when we announced that we were expecting our baby, we were greeted with sincere joy.

Friendships made as an adult require a lot more concentrated effort.  We're busy, and our lives are filled with major changes, and we don't see each other every day the way we might have as schoolchildren.  We're establishing careers, romantic relationships, families, homeownership - Grown up stuff. Sometimes, friendship means meeting at Eureka Burger on a Thursday night, and bringing your baby, and knowing you've only got a small window before you've got to get back home, but knowing the friends you will see are worth it.  With Marcos at my side, Eden in my lap, Elise, Lindsey, and later Tori sitting across from me, I knew my night would be stretched thin.  But I also know that no matter how busy life gets or how tired I am I never regret the time I spend just rollin' with my homies.