Friday, June 04, 2010

For sale

Our house went on the market yesterday. We bought it thinking we’d be here for two or three years, tops. It’s been eight years and three months. The time is right for us to move. We need more space. A two-bedroom townhome with a tiny yard is getting too small for two highly energetic boys. And don’t even get me started on how complicated it is to have out-of-town visitors. This was our starter home. The next place—it will be THE house (fingers crossed), the one will be in until the boys graduate and maybe even longer.

I stopped by a coffee shop yesterday for a late lunch. There were three young men there, having lunch together, telling stories, laughing. They were probably high school seniors, I thought, taking advantage of open campus or early dismissal the last few weeks of school. I remember so clearly being in their shoes. It hasn’t been very long. I am not that much older than them… And then it hit me. I AM. I AM much older than them. They are closer in age to my kids than to me. Twelve years from now, it will be Child grabbing lunch at a coffee shop with his friends and preparing for graduation.

And suddenly, I felt old. I didn’t want to put our house on the market. I didn’t want to leave our tiny townhome. My babies are still babies while we are in this house. In the next house, they will be teenagers and graduates and college students and out of the house. And I don’t want that. I want them to be babies—my babies, who love me unconditionally and forgive me for not always doing my best as their mama. I don’t want to move.

Friday, March 12, 2010


In case you were wondering, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. It’s just that I haven’t much time or, more accurately, much need to be here. I desperately need writing when I am in distress. I think just about every single post I have ever written here reflects that. Writing is my therapy. Writing is what I do when I can’t sleep, when I can’t mentally disconnect from distress. And, well, I guess I haven’t had much need for therapy lately. Not to say that it is all rainbows and butterflies here, but it is a drastic improvement over the way things were the last time I wrote here. And time… who wants to hear me complain how little time I have. Doesn’t everyone have the same problem? ‘Nuff said.

At the same time, I don’t want to just disappear. I’ve encountered several blogs whose writers stopped writing suddenly. No goodbyes, no “I am going to take a break”… And it does make me wonder what happened to that person. Did she get hit by a bus? So I am back to tell you that I did not get hit by a bus. I am still here, running at the speed of light, playing all the same roles, and some new ones, laughing, crying, playing, dreaming, yelling, regretting, hoping, loving.

Looking back at the last year, not much has changed on the surface. One discussion-worthy change is the fact that Child started Kindergarten last fall, and it has been absolutely nothing like I imagined. For my extremely outgoing, extraverted boy who jumps both feet in in every social situation, it has been the toughest transition of his lifetime. It has taught me that the teacher is what makes or breaks the experience. Not the school, which has a near-perfect score on the web site that evaluates U.S. public schools, not the school district, which is considered to be one of the best in the nation… For the child, it is all about the teacher. And this is where our luck failed us miserably. To be fair, it is not that Child’s teacher is a bad, horrible teacher (she is probably just average, although don’t get me started on grammar and punctuation issues in school communications)—it’s just that her personality and teaching/discipline style could not be any farther away from what I picture when I think of a person who works with a bunch of 5- and 6-year-olds. Without going into much detail (because honestly, I don’t care to relive and retell those stories—I would so much rather forget them), let me just say that Child has spent the first three months of school crying every morning and every night and not able to sleep; he was completely unlike himself; his self-esteem and self-confidence plummeted. There has been gradual improvement (at least there are no tears anymore), but he completely lacks any sort of enthusiasm about going to school, and we deal with this every single day. A child shouldn’t hate school in kindergarten, right? He has 12 more years to figure that out. On the positive side, he appears to be doing really well in school academically, he is very much liked and has lots of friends. So at this point, we simply wait for the year to end and hope that his teacher next year will be a more caring, loving and encouraging person.

Other than that, the boys are doing wonderfully. I cannot even begin to put into words how close they are and how much they love each other. I had no idea it would be like this. I thought the four-year age gap will make it impossible for them to relate to each other. I’ve never been so happy to admit that I was so very wrong.

Our Christmas card last year ended with this: “If there was one wish we could make for next year, it would be that time wouldn’t move quite so fast.” That wish has not come true—nor will it ever, I suspect—but it is this fleeting nature of time that reminds me to count my blessings.

So to summarize: not hit by bus, things going pretty well (except kindergarten), love all around. I do have one particular topic I need to write about and post here because I actually need some feedback—you know, in case someone actually still has this blog in their blog feeds. But other than that, I expect my postings here will be few and far between, which is a good thing because it means my heartache level is low. And really, what more can I ask for?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22

Dear Dad,
Today would have been your 62nd birthday. I would have waffled on whether or not to call you. I would have worried about how the conversation would go. Will it be one of the good ones or one of the uncomfortable, awkward ones? Anticipating the latter, I would have looked for excuses not to call. But I would have called you nonetheless. I hope I would have. I would have heard your voice, so soft yet so excited to hear mine. You loved me so much, I have not doubted that over the last few years, but sometimes I didn’t know what to do with all that love. Sometimes it made me feel uncomfortable.

We would have talked about the kids and the cool things you’ve been doing on your computer. You would have asked about my job and Husband. You, undoubtedly, would have found a way to mention that I have not called or sent pictures in a long time, which would have been true. Or maybe you wouldn’t have said anything, but I would have heard it anyway. I would have asked you about your health, and you would have lied. I probably would not have asked you about grandma because I didn’t want to know the bad news or hear you complain about how hard it is for you to take care of a 90-some-year-old woman with severe dementia.

I probably would have mentioned that we were planning a trip home some time this year, probably in the summer. Of course, you would have known that this meant that we would stay with my mom and stepdad and only stop by to see you a couple of times during the week, in between all other commitments. But you would have told me how you couldn’t wait to take the boys to the river beach near your apartment, show them the frogs, watch them play at the playground, hold Baby on your lap.

And then you would have said something to indicate that you should get off the phone, much sooner than I would have expected. I would have been surprised, as I always was. You were always the one to end the conversation—but maybe you did it to take the pressure off of me. Your voice would have started to sound tired and weak, which I would have probably attributed to minor speech difficulty from your stroke of a few years ago. But there would have been so much emotion, so much pain in your voice that I would have wondered if you were crying.

I would have been the first one to disconnect, and then I would have replayed the conversation in my head many times, wondering how you really were, what you were working on, how you were making ends meet.

But we can’t have this conversation today, and no matter how awkward those calls sometimes—or often—were, today I would give so much just to hear your voice again, Dad. To tell you how much I love you and how sorry I am that our relationship was not what you or I ever wanted it to be. And how much I wish I had a second chance.

I first paid attention to the words of this song on my long flight to your funeral. Since then, I have been unable to listen to it without tears. Yet I can’t seem to be able to turn it off when it comes on the radio in the car. Instead, I pull the car over and cry.

This time, this place
Misused, mistakes
Too long, too late
Who was I to make you wait
Just one chance
Just one breath
Just in case there's just one left
'Cause you know, you know, you know

I love you
I’ve loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing
if I don't see you anymore

On my knees, I'll ask
Last chance for one last dance
'Cause with you, I'd withstand
All of hell to hold your hand
I'd give it all
I'd give for us
Give anything but I won't give up
'Cause you know, you know, you know

That I love you
I’ve loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing
if I don't see you anymore

I wanted
I wanted you to stay
'Cause I needed
I need to hear you say,
“I love you
I’ve loved you all along
And I forgive you
For being away for far too long”
So keep breathing
'Cause I'm not leaving you anymore
Believe it
Hold on to me and, never let me go

But unlike the music video (which I’ve watched for the first time just now while googling the lyrics), for me, it’s love song without a happy ending. There isn’t a last dance, there isn’t a chance to ask for forgiveness, there isn’t a way to make up for being away for far too long.

A brilliant friend suggested that sometimes you simply don’t get closure. Ever. This brought me to tears—and surprisingly, also brought me relief because this notion allowed me to stop wondering ‘what is wrong with me’ and ‘why can’t I just move on.’ But it also made me realize that even if I don’t ever get closure, I need to get through this, I need to get things off my chest, and pushing these thoughts away or ignoring them is just going to prolong the pain.

You always told me that I should write, Dad, but I knew I could never be as good as you, so I resented your pressure. I said, “I can’t write something that others would find interesting.” And you said, “If it is interesting to you, there is a good chance it would be interesting to someone else.”

I took a break from writing, hoping it would free me from my gloomy thoughts. It seemed to work for a while, but the sadness has returned, and I found myself composing sentences in my mind during sleepless nights, hoping that by properly linking them together, one by one, I can build a path out of this darkness. So it seems fitting that on your birthday I return here, to a medium that has helped me find a way out before.

I love you, Dad. I've loved you all along.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vignettes on sadness

I can't stop thinking about them. I can't stop crying. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I can't get excited about the holiday season. I know that I have so much to be grateful for, yet all I can think about is how unfair life is. And instead of appreciating my blessings even more, I live in fear that they will be taken away from me. I’ve been a bad mother and a bad wife. I am impatient, snappy, mean. I am frustrated, angry and exhausted. My family deserves better, yet I can’t find the strength to do better.


When my dad died, people told me he was in a better place now. And I believed them. He was no longer in pain. I hoped that he was no longer sad. I hoped that he could now see his grandkids any time he wanted—instead of missing them from half way around the world. I so desperately wanted to believe that to be true. But now I don’t.


On Thursday morning, I saw her for the last time. She was loading the crib and the high chair in her dad’s truck. Everything else went in the moving truck or in the trash. I spoke to her, asking once again if she needed any help. I wanted to keep it together, but I couldn’t—my eyes teared up and so did hers. We hugged and cried. I was hoping to see her again before she left, but I am sure she didn’t need any more goodbyes. I know I will never see her or hear from her again. She has my contact information, but I don’t have hers. I don’t even know her last name… Even if I did, I wouldn’t try to reach her. I don’t want to be a sad reminder of the life that was. But I do want one thing. I want to know that some day—some day—she will be OK. Because I really want her to be OK. And it makes me so sad to know that I will never know.


I am afraid this is going to be either a very sad or a very quiet place for a while, and I won’t be offended if no one stops by here for the time being. My heart is bursting with emotions, wanting to get them all out on paper. Yet my brain is starting to crack down on these outbursts, pointing me to my real-life to do list that overflows with holiday cards, Child’s birthday party, house guests, gift shopping, welcoming my new niece, decorating, Christmas parties, and on and on and on. There is no time to deal with your emotions, my brain says, there is so much else to be done. You will deal with them later. I don’t know how much longer I can wait.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A little over two years ago, new neighbors moved in two houses down from us. They were a young couple, late 20s or early 30s.

I instantly liked them. They were a lot like us—except… a lot more hip. He had crazy curly hair and wore shorts and baseball hats to work. She was always dressed in hip clothes and had a funky haircut—and I often looked at her wishing I had the same sense of style. They often had friends over—grilling, cheering for the games on TV, drinking beer, playing catch in the common area behind our townhomes. You could tell they were free spirits.

As neighbors, they were very friendly, but not overly so—not the kind of neighbors that engage you in a 30-minute conversation every time you run into them while taking out the garbage in your pajamas. And I was secretly hoping that they would become our friends—they seemed like the kind of people I’d love to hang out with. But somehow we just never got around to getting to know them outside of friendly ‘hello’ and ‘isn’t it a beautiful day’ conversations.

After their first winter in the neighborhood, when layers of clothing were packed away in the attic, it became apparent that she was pregnant. We chatted about babies, deliveries, registries. In late May 2007, they had a baby girl.

This summer, a For Sale sign appeared in front of their townhome. Next time I saw him outside, I asked where they were moving to. He got a job offer in Ohio, a job that would allow his wife to be a stay-at-home mom. And being there would bring them closer to family. He was heading out there in two weeks, and his wife and the baby would stay here until the house sold. I saw her and the baby a lot after that—they’d go for a walk any time someone was looking at the house, and I wondered how tough it must be to have a house on the market when you have a young child.

On Halloween, I noticed that she wasn’t home. And I did not see her car for days after that. I figured they decided that the sale was taking longer than they’d expected, so she and the baby moved to be with him. I was sad that I didn’t get to say good bye.

But yesterday, I saw her outside. She and her dad (whose truck with NY plates I recognized right away—they came down to visit frequently) were taking a lot of stuff out of the house to the trash. They house must have sold, I thought. I saw her from the window of my living room several times and could not help but notice how sad she was. Even though it is an exciting change for them, it must be tough to say good-bye to the house that they brought their first baby to, I thought, justifying her sadness.

Eventually, I walked outside to say hello. ‘You look so sad,’ I said. And then I looked in her eyes, and before she said anything, I knew it was more than the sentimentality of leaving her home.

‘He died two weeks ago. He was walking home, collapsed and died. We are waiting for autopsy results. They think it was a brain aneurism. I was driving to see him. I was an hour away, and I got a call to go to the ER. I was too late.’

The grief is everywhere, and it is overwhelming. I will, eventually, come to terms with the death of my dad and my grandma. I feel devastated for my boys’ nanny, who lost her dad and her mom within four days of each other last month. But all of them lived long lives. But this? This I can not understand. I wish I was a more spiritual or religious person who could understand the higher purpose behind this, who could see this as part of a bigger plan. But I simply can not wrap my mind around it. I don’t understand why he had to die. I don’t understand why her life has now taken a turn she could have never imagined. I don’t understand why their sweet little girl has to grow up without having any memories of her dad. I am beyond furious... at God, the universe, whomever is in charge.

I hugged her, I cried with her, I held her hand, I offered my help with anything she could possibly need. And as I walked away, I kept saying to myself, ‘I can not imagine...’ and I waited for my husband to get home. And she went back to her house to empty out the memories.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Today is my first presidential election as a U.S. citizen. Today I cast my vote without any reservations, without feeling that I have to pick the lesser of the two evils. Today I vote in a swing state, where my vote will matter.

Four years ago, almost to the day, I cast my vote for a person who I believed could transform my old country, my country of birth. That election turned into much more than just an election—it became a revolution, a peaceful revolution, one for the history books. The man I voted for was eventually named President. I still have a lot of respect for him, but it has become painfully obvious that one man, no matter how genuine and good, is powerless against a hundred years of corruption, brainwashing and fear-mongering. I believe there is a bright future for my country, but it is generations away.

I don’t want to be disappointed again. Not today, not tomorrow, not a year from now.

Today I can smell the change in the air.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The fastest year of my life

Over the last few days, on more than one occasion, I found my mind drifting off to “a year ago today…” The contractions that woke me up one night and then faded away within a couple of hours. The movie screening we went to on October 25. The heart-shaped banana-bread ‘birthday cake’ I made for Husband in the morning. Getting my hair cut and my toes painted a year ago yesterday.

And a year ago today, just a few minutes ago, meeting my Baby for the first time.

He is my perfect baby. My miracle baby. I love him something fierce. And if I dared to ask for anything more from the universe, I would only ask that the time would not go so fast.

Happy birthday, my sweet Baby.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15

Today is the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Today is also the day that two years ago we conceived the baby that we never got to meet. I remember that day—Husband came back from a business trip that afternoon, and I was leaving for a trip the next morning. We had one shot that month, and the fact that it worked—after months and months of ‘unexplained secondary infertility’ failures—made that pregnancy such an amazing miracle. And maybe that’s what made the loss so tough to bear. Only within the last few months I stopped thinking about that baby on a daily basis. Maybe it is the passing of time, maybe it is the new sadness that plagues me these days.

But I will always remember that baby. I will always remember how overwhelmingly happy I was to see that + sign and the afternoon I spent trying to figure out a creative way to tell Husband. I will always remember how devastatingly chilling it was to see no flicker on the gray ultrasound screen.

And while I am not a religious person, I really want to believe in life after death. I want to believe that my dad got to meet this baby and the babies he lost. And that he is there to comfort them and play with them until the rest of us get there, long, long time from now.

Friday, October 03, 2008

11 months

This past weekend Baby turned 11 months old.

A month from now, he will no longer be considered a baby. He will be 1, and he will be a toddler. This is his last non-birthday birthday, the last time we count his age in months instead of years. One, three or six months from now, we will tell people that he is 1, not 12, 14 or 17 months. The end of his babyhood is no longer a distant dot on the horizon. It is here, right in front of me, and I am overwhelmed by how fast we got here.

This realization has caused me to hold him a little longer each night before putting him in his crib, to comply more frequently with his requests to be picked up, to spend a little extra time giving him a bath, to kiss him even more, to rub the little peach-fuzzy head a little longer as he nurses. I am trying to soak it all up, to breathe him in, in an attempt to hang on to this fleeting babyhood.

Friday, September 12, 2008


On my flight back to the U.S., I was reading an article in this magazine about coping with loss. It said that the five stages of grief don’t necessarily come in order, and you can keep skipping from one stage to another and back again. This describes precisely how I have been doing—from feeling fine, to feeling completely devastated, to being angry at the unfairness to it all, to wondering if this is all a bad dream. Most of the time, I feel so emotionally exhausted that I am numb.

The four days and some odd hours I spent in my home town were the most emotionally exhausting days of my life.

Two hours before I landed, my grandmother (my dad’s mom) died. She was 93. Her mind has been slipping for quite a few years now, and when I saw her in the fall of 2006, the last time I was home, she could barely remember my dad, who was taking care of her. But she remembered me—and she remembered so many details about my life that my dad and I were stunned. Grandma and I shared a special bond. She always made me feel so good about myself. She was so proud of me. Even when her memory began to fade, any time my name would come up, Grandma would begin her sentences with “In a foreign land, in a foreign language, my amazing Kate built a life for herself.” We teased her that she sounded like a broken record, and she just smiled and looked at me, shaking her head as if in disbelief that I am real.

Her death was the last drop for me. I didn’t have as tough of a time accepting her death as I did with my dad (she was in her 90s, after all, and I expected that she may go soon), but what hurt me beyond words is that I did not get a chance to say goodbye. Not to my dad, nor to my grandma. I missed both of them by a matter of hours. I could have called my dad at the hospital before he died… I could have caught an earlier flight that would have brought me home before she died…

Two funerals. Two cemeteries. Two coffins with people who looked nothing like my dad and my grandma. Too many tears. Too many anxiety attacks to count. Too few hours of sleep. Going through their apartment, sorting through decades of memories, deciding what to keep, what to toss. How do you decide? In three days, that entire side of the family—gone. Our last name is no more.

There is a lot to be said—or written. A lot I need to come to terms with. But where these words belong, I am not sure. Here? In a folder on my laptop? In my head? I’ve been putting these thoughts aside. I have been focusing on the kids and work and the day-to-day of temporary single-parenting. My husband returns tonight after being away for a month. And for better or for worse, this means that the flood gates can now open.