In Writing 101 there were three assignments that were to be written as part of a series. It took me over a year to finish all three, each one harder for me to write than the one before it. The first assignment was Serial Killer was about losing something and I wrote Working Through The Pain with Chocolate and Chardonnay. The second part in the series was Serially Found which was about finding something and I wrote Not Quite Me.
This is the final part in the three installment series and it is about Lost and Found.
The first time I held your cousin Jennifer Christina in my arms. I drank in her new baby smell and cried softly in her pink sleeper. My due date was ten days prior to the day she was born. I was supposed to be holding you in my arms, her big cousin by all of less than two weeks, when she arrived. Instead my arms were empty.
I remember being afraid of how I would react when I met my newest niece for the first time. I managed to contain my tears, only Jenny and I felt them. I didn’t want to damper my sister’s joy with my pain and sorrow. And no one seemed to understand how I could simultaneously be happy for my sister and be wracked with my own grief. How my sister’s pink bundle of joy was a bittersweet reminder of my loss.
Not even your father understood. I tried explaining how I felt and he couldn’t grasp the concept. Our loss and my sister’s pregnancy and baby were simply two different matters in his mind. He didn’t want to hear it – he couldn’t hear it. Losing you already stressed both of us and our relationship. I quickly learned that my stress level and our relationship would be better served if we just did not talk about how losing you could diminish the happiness I felt for my sister.
Frankly, your father wasn’t alone. No one except my dear friend Sam wanted to hear about my pain.
No one wanted to know how much I hurt.
No one wanted to know how empty I felt inside, how my arms felt empty even when I was holding your cousin; no especially when I was holding your cousin.
No one wanted to hear how there were supposed to be two babies in my arms – you my precious baby girl and your sweet cousin.
No one wanted to hear how when I looked at my little niece sleeping in the playpen at my mom’s house I longed to see you sleeping beside her.
No one wanted to hear how angry I was because there were supposed to be two grandbabies in Nanny’s playpen. My heart ached for you.
Over time when I looked at Jenny it became less bittersweet. Jenny and I developed a bond that was intensified by the loss of you.
I’ve always said to her who is my favorite girl and depending on her mood she would answer, “Gianna is (her older sister) or “I am.” And always aware of not creating animosity between the two sisters, I always followed up with and who is my other favorite girl to which she responded “I am” or “Gianna”.
Every milestone in her life is your milestone; a milestone you were supposed to make with her. Her first birthday, her first steps, her first tooth, her first words; all these first moments you were supposed to be experiencing with her. Her birthdays have become reminders of how old you would be.
Recently, I quietly observed that it has been twelve years since we lost you. It is not an anniversary that your father and I discuss although it is a pain we both share.
To be honest, I try not to think about losing you … if I held onto that pain my life would be very depressing. I had to let the pain go in order to survive. That’s not to say I don’t think about you, because I do. Sometimes it’s on occasions that it would be expected like on the day of your cousin’s First Holy Communion, a sacrament you would’ve made with her. Much to your Mame’s dismay, I would have raised you Catholic while exposing you to your father’s family’s Baptist traditions.
Other times, it’s during something that is less of an occasion, something that is well more routine. For instance, I might be watching your cousin pitch a softball game when I suddenly think of you. I glance over and see Jenny and her friend Frankie chatting on the mound and I wonder if you would’ve played softball with them. Perhaps the catcher, with Frankie on first base and Jenny on the mound. You would’ve been the Three Musketeers – a triple threat on the softball field. I smile at the thought and return to the game.
Around the time you would’ve been three years old, I was sitting in your aunt’s mini-van, your cousins acting out in the back when I turned to your aunt and said ” Sometimes, I regret that we never tried to have another baby, but …”. And before I could finish ” … then I visit with the girls and I’m over it,” Jenny said in her sweetest little girl voice, “It’s okay, Auntie, you have us.”
I think that has made all the difference. Losing you has been the deepest sorrow of my life. I could have easily spiraled into deep depression and stayed there. Finding my role as favorite aunt to your cousins has helped me move forward and has been my saving grace.