Tuesday, February 19, 2013

His name, in lights

There are precious few things that bear A's name. I mean, I could cover reams of paper with it, in different fonts and different languages. I could pay someone to sky write it. Both of these-- and many more-- seem sad and pointless to me. He's still dead, you know.

For the most part, by now I am ok with A's lack of Earthly possessions and his generally tiny material footprint. But, I recently discovered, concern over his obscurity hasn't faded into irrelevance for me. On the anniversary of his death I stumbled upon a mention of a Kickstarter campaign for a little indy movie about a couple whose first child dies and is stillborn. It is called Return to Zero, and most likely you've heard of it by now.

Sadly, Sean Hanish, writer-director of the movie, knows whereof he speaks. Or films, as the case may be-- the movie is based on Sean's and his wife's own experience of stillbirth of their first child. The clip on the Kickstarter page had me nodding with recognition, and the caliber of the cast gave me hope that they could pull off showing what life is really like on our side of the "I am really sorry, but..."

And so, for A's 6th birth day we gave ourselves a present-- we contributed to the movie's Kickstarter campaign. We've never supported any crowd sourcing projects before, even though I've been meaning to look into that for a bit. I knew the general idea-- small donors promise to support a project at various levels, project leaders promise the donors various perks in return for various levels of support, and if enough donors pledge to support a project that it reaches its goal sum in 30 days or less, everyone gets charged at once, at the end of that 30 day period. And at some point, donors get their perks.

Reading through the list of perks for the movie, I was thinking about how well thought out they seemed, and was trying to figure out whether I wanted a DVD of the movie or just the digital download, when I read all the way to the $250 level. Which is when I was suddenly willing to part with way more money than I was only a second before. Because what you get at that level of support is a credit at the end of the movie-- a "thank you" or an "in loving memory of". A's name in lights. Well, in zeroes and ones, really. But the point is, it will be there. I know it will go by fast. I know virtually nobody in the theater, if the movie is picked up for distribution, is staying to watch that part of the credits. But I am. And we will have the DVD, and we (and maybe some day A's sisters and brother) will be able to pause the thing riiiiiiight there. I am not saying I plan to stare at it for hours. But I am not saying I may not forget to turn off the TV one day. It happens, you know.

I am also not saying I am obsessed with this or anything, but I did leave a tab of the Kickstarter page opened in my browser. Make of that what you will-- I am ok with it, I own my crazy. The campaign was originally for $50K, and they got there last week. So the project is definitely getting funded, which means the movie will be shown at some festivals this year, and, hopefully, will be picked up for distribution at one of them. But the campaign clock still has 3 days on it, and the filmmakers have set a new goal-- they would really like to get to $70K. That will increase the quality of the editing they are able to do, and so should increase the chance of the movie being picked up.

So if you want to, if you are able, go take a look at the campaign. And, if you are inclined, join us and-- as on right now-- 335 other donors in giving this movie a little push towards the big screen. And hey, if you have and are inclined to spend the kind of coin that gets you that private screening in your home perk, can I count as your friend? Or family-- I am not picky.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From time to time

(Those of you who still visit, thank you. Thank you for your comments and your clicks. I need to tell you about the Cub and about the anniversary, and I will. But I have to say this first.)

A died on a Tuesday, the last Tuesday in January. In 2007, that was January 30th. This year, the last Tuesday in January was the 29th. Two weeks ago today. A year has 52 weeks, give or take. So it was (52 x 6) + 2 = 314 weeks ago that my son died.

The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

That's from the Constitution. Article II, Section 3, as you undoubtedly heard or read in the last couple of days, if you've had electricity and had a news source on for any length of time. Even with the Pope news, and the storm news, and the madman in LA news, I am sure someone somewhere has quoted to you the Constitutional authority of what is about to transpire in the Washington, DC in mere hours. I will watch it, as I watch every one of these, whether delivered by the guy I voted for or not.

It takes conviction to deliver a speech like that well. It takes preparation and planning, but it also takes a backbone. But tonight, it is possible that the person with the strongest backbone in the room will be one of the 25 guests of the First Lady. Though, I imagine, to her, that backbone might feel more like a pulsating column of raw pain and anguish.

I heard her voice before I even knew her name, though not before I knew her daughter's name. “You don’t how hard this really is,” Cleopatra Cowley said out of my radio this weekend. “And those of you that do know how hard this is, I am sorry.”

I heard her in the way we sometimes hear each other, in the way where I could've finished her sentence. Ms. Cowley was on my radio because 312 weeks after my son died, mere two weeks ago, someone mistook a bunch of teenagers seeking cover from a rainstorm for members of a rival gang and opened fire. Cleopatra Cowley's beautiful fifteen year old daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, was shot and killed.

Hadiya had performed at the inauguration just 8 days before, and she was killed barely a mile from the President's Chicago home, details that called national media's attention to one of what is likely to be many hundreds of murders in Chicago this year. The First Lady attended Hadiya's funeral, which is why my radio was covering it.

And today, just two weeks after her daughter's death, Cleopatra Cowley will sit with the First Lady for the speech. Could you do it? Two weeks out? Two weeks out I was barely able to follow a plot of a TV episode, let alone a speech. Could I really get dressed and put on makeup and walk into a room understanding that TV cameras would be there? I am not sure. But I think that even if I don't exactly grasp how she will do it, I have a good idea of why she is doing it.

Two weeks out, and for much time after, the thing that bothered me more than pretty much anything (except for the central fact of A being dead) was that nobody knew him. Nobody knew him and nobody needed to know. At the time I thought this to be a unique thing about babyloss-- that because others haven't met our babies, they can safely go about their business, unaffected by the world missing the light of our lives. Now I see it differently. Most people are not known to most of us, and so the passing of most people does not affect most of us. But when the pain is yours, you just might want everyone to suddenly realize that even if they didn't know it before, they too have been robbed by the death of your loved one, that their world, too, has been made smaller and poorer by the passing. Looking at Hadiya's smile, it is hard to disagree.

So presumptuous as it may be of me to think so, I think I understand the why of Cleopatra Cowley's evening. And, maybe, after all, I understand the how too. Perhaps it is another oldie but goodie of the grief experience-- one foot in front of the other, and try to remember to breathe.

Today is also Maddy's sixth birth day. Please stop by and remember with Tash.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Number sense

Apparently, there is a famous experiment that demonstrates our innate (lack of) number sense. You take a two year old and a bunch of pennies. I suppose it can be a bunch of quarters too, but pennies are comfortable for little fingers to pick up. So you spread the pennies on a table and you sit the two year old nearby. And then you ask the two year old whether they could please hand you a penny. And they usually do, and it is usually one penny. Then you ask them whether you could please have two pennies. Sure, says a two year old. And happily hands you a handful of pennies. See, they don't really get two yet. They understand one, and the rest is not one.

This can be a two year old who can count in order way past two, by the way. Because we say the words to them, and they repeat after us. But conceptually, they are not yet what is referred to as a two-knower. It takes repetition, a lot of repetition, for them to get the concept of two. You'd think that at that point they would also get the concept of three, right? Well, if you did, you'd be wrong. A two-knower is not necessarily a three-knower. And it takes, again, a lot of repetition to turn a former into a latter.

I tell you this because the Cub, I recently discovered, is still teetering on the edge of three-knowing. We have this spacial reasoning game that we gave him for his birthday. He loves it, and over the last many months has made his way through most challenges in the booklet. Sometimes, it's me who's helping him with it, sometimes JD, and sometimes Monkey. And she can actually keep to the role of helper, letting him figure it out and only asking him leading questions if he gets stuck. The whole thing is ridiculously sweet, really. But anyway. He made his way through all but the highest, Master, level by now. And at Master level it becomes important to pay attention to how long pieces are. The Cub could, from the drawing, call a one-long piece, and a two-long piece. But the three-long one? He said it was "mmmmm... ten!" long. But he can show you three fingers no problem. So, not a confident three-knower yet.

Which helps explain a bit of Cub-hilarity. He loves dinosaurs. He's four, so that makes perfect sense. He also knows that when dinos were around, there were no people (this makes him feel better, by the way, and I can see his point, because have you seen some of those 'saurs?), and he knows that dinosaurs died out. And that it was a while after that that first people appeared. And all that warms my science educator heart and contains only trace amounts of laughter-inducing materials. The hilarity reliably ensues, however, if you ask the Cub when all of this went down. You know, the dying out of dinosaurs and the rest. I have only heard him answer that one of two ways-- he either says "seven years ago" or "six years ago." Most often, it's six. Because he is not a reliable three-knower, six must seem to him as reasonable an answer as a billion.

He understands dinosaurs dying out as a cataclysmic event, a tectonic shift. And it occurred to me one fine day not so long ago, that on the scale of one family, our family, he's kinda right. Our cataclysm, our tectonic shift, our meteorite impact, that happened six years ago. Six years ago today.

And in a sense, it is about to happen again. Tonight. Because I am an enormous chicken, and because we are human and tend to pain-avoidance. See, I always thought that any subsequent children we'd have would grow up knowing about A, that it wouldn't be scary because it would be normal. And I started out like that with the Cub, talking to him about A when he was a baby, taking him to the cemetery with me. One of those visits, when the Cub was a toddler but no older than 18 months, he was standing by the grave and I said something like "that's where your brother is," and you could see by his face that he was processing that anew, and then he looked scared, and he started to cry. I calmed him down, but never took him back again, and we've never talked to him about A since. See? Chicken.

Last year, on the birth day, the Cub was three and a half, and was a bit confused by candles (Monkey still insists) and cookies and such. But I was pregnant then, and I didn't want him to be anxious through the rest of that, seeing as he was three and seeing as finds enough to be anxious about already. So we distracted him and he let it go. He won't tomorrow. And so tonight, with no margin left, we will talk.

We saw the date from a mile away, well, from a couple of months back, but it'd always felt like we had more time. This year yahrzeit (anniversary on the Hebrew calendar) fell on last Wednesday. I thought for sure we'd talk then. But we didn't, lighting the candle with Monkey after the Cub'd gone to sleep. I thought he'd ask about the candle burning in the middle of the kitchen island the next day. But he didn't, and so, again, we didn't talk. We had my nephew (we will call him Bear around here, because, you know, his parents often do), for part of the weekend, and we were just busy for part of it. Lame, lame excuses. Otherwise known as life.

But now we are out of time and out of excuses, and even Monkey will be home tonight. And we will talk, ensuing cataclysm and all. Wish us luck.