Today is my grandfather's birthday. The one Monkey is named after. Last one he celebrated was eleven years ago. Well, celebrated is a strong word for it. He was in a hospital, the same one he would die in nine months later. Stupid accident due to profound negligence by the driver of his medical transport-- the one that was taking him for his dialysis, the very procedure that was drastically improving and prolonging his life-- left him paralyzed and started his slow but maddeningly irreversible slide towards the end. A product of a second-cousin marriage, he was not a well man. But neither was he a timid man, a man to be cowed by life. I wonder now whether it was my general cluelessness or that ever-present twinkle in his eyes that caused me to never consider, despite his many illnesses, that he might die. Until that fall or even winter that is, when he wasn't improving, when every step forward necessarily brought two back, never, not even once the other way around.
Yesterday was my cousin Jay's 26th birthday. My grandfather's only grandson, my favorite and closest cousin. The day of my grandfather's funeral he was a shell-shocked teenager. JD poured him some vodka at the memorial lunch after the funeral. It seemed to help. He is funny and quick and fun. We are not as close as we once were, what with living half way across the country from each other and having busy and not exactly problem-free lives. I miss him, though.
Tomorrow is the seventh monthaversary of A's death. I miss him too. A lot. But this last month has been hard in a new way too. Even though I thought, in my rational mind, that we might have some trouble conceiving this time, I don't think I had really confronted fully what that would mean. As we were leaving the hospital, the nice nurse who was walking us out said "Maybe we will see you here in two years or so." JD got upset that she said two years. I didn't-- I understood that she didn't want to pressure us but wanted to give us hope. But in truth, I didn't consider then, or for a long time after, what it would mean for me to still not be pregnant today. I am now. Considering and confronting, that is.
I had a meeting at Monkey's new school today. I asked to meet with the teachers to talk about how they would handle any talk of siblings, babies, or pregnancies in the classroom. The meeting ended up including also the principal and the head of lower school. They wanted to know what we wanted done or not done. They reassured me that they will be mindful and watchful whenever such topics come up, that they will be sure to validate Monkey's sadness if she chooses to express it, that it will always be safe for her to talk about her brother. I was worried about two types of kid reactions to finding out about A-- not believing her/dismissing her loss, or getting freaked out. They assured me that they will be prepared to handle both. They also wanted to know what she likes to do, what brings her joy. It was actually a little funny to hear the sound of four pens getting picked up in unison when I said something apparently key. Like "English is not her native language." They also emphasized even before I had a chance to bring it up that they will make sure that A will not become Monkey's identity, that she will not be "the girl whose brother died" to them or to the kids. I feel a lot better about school now.
There is a number of trees growing all bunched up together just where I turn onto the street leading to my street. A few days ago I noticed that one of them, a scrawny one, one whose freedom to grow and spread its seed has obviously been grievously abridged by its more bushy-crowned neighbors, that one was starting to show some color. I thought that was both a little weird and a lot cool-- an early messenger of fall, well hidden by its bossy neighbors, I thought it was my secret. I love fall, and I looked at it as a way early sneak preview, a promise of a real treat. But today I had to go a little north of us. Well, my car had to go, for a scheduled maintenance, and I just couldn't let it go by itself. So I drove north, just a little, mind you, and was dismayed to see how many trees were starting to show color there. I guess my "far away" fall really isn't so far away. How did we get here?