March 21, 2013
I’m staging a boycott.
The things I am boycotting: the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, my birthday, Jasper’s friend L’s birthday, spring, Easter.
It’s a terrible year to boycott basketball, I admit; Louisville is the number one seed. No one here cares, but it makes me feel connected to home to follow the tournament. This time last year I was filling out my bracket with my usual ineptitude, basing my prognostications on nothing, getting really excited when I lucked into an upset. I watched a bunch of games. I ordered a pizza on April 2 and watched the Kentucky-Kansas final with Jasper.
Balthazar was, unbeknownst to me, already dead. I can’t do it again. I can’t pretend that it matters at all.
L and I have the same birthday. This year his party is on April 7 at his house. Last year it was on April 1 at playdatePDX. Really, that day was was the worst, worse even than the day I found out, because that was the day, I believe, that Balthazar died. It was a day that was filled with the kind of worry and anxiety that you hope is unfounded. That you convince yourself is silly. That party, in particular. The heat of hundreds of little bodies running and jumping, and the deafening noise of them. Eating the cake to try to get Balthazar to move. Pressing on my belly trying to get him to move. Accepting the indulgent smiles and answering the solicitous questions of the other moms, who were so kind and pleased for me and completely unaware of my increasing panic.
He was alive at the party, but that was the last time Balthazar went anywhere. I’ve already told Jonathan that he may have to take Jasper to L’s on the 7th.
I’ll be 42 on April 2. I asked for a necklace I found in the Sundance catalog. It’s a gold chain with a small vermeil charm in the shape of a Moroccan door. It has one diamond, which is my birthstone, and Balthazar’s, and Jasper’s. You could have it engraved with one letter. The letter, of course, is B.
It seems churlish to say my birthday is canceled, but I don’t know how else to communicate how I feel about it. I guess it’s just been folded into Balthzar’s. It can no longer exist as a stand alone day. It will always be coupled and will as a result will always be sad. I don’t mean to be petulant, but that’s how it is.
The only day that means anything is April 3.
The necklace is really a gift for Balthazar’s birthday, not mine. I also thought that I was going to get a tattoo, Balthazar’s name in Balthazar font over my heart, but Jasper will stop loving me, he says, if I get a tattoo. He says that some adults he hates have tattoos, but he won’t tell me who they are. Since Jonathan did not seem enthusiastic, either, I scrapped the idea. For now, anyway.
Spring happens whether you like it or not. Already the blossoms on the trees outside Voodoo Donuts are the same pinky mauve as the store’s facade. Each day when I walk of the hill after dropping Jasper off at school I think, Balthazar was still alive today. Very soon I will reach the day when I will think, today he was not.
Last year Easter was on April 8, five days after Balthazar was born. This year it comes before, on March 30, which is good. On March 30, Balthazar was still alive. But the Easter candy in the grocery store annoys me. The pastel colors annoy me. The bunnies and the chicks. I haven’t even allowed myself to think about the Resurrection. The pagan symbols are irritating enough.
Events in my life are conspiring to make this boycott easier. I start a six week contract copyediting job on Monday. My days are spent in meetings and marathon telephone conversations, tech support and project overviews and email. The money is welcome, of course, but the distraction is also appreciated, right now.
Though I should be organizing my memoir. I promised myself I would have it done and ready to show to an agent on April 3. Now I’m not sure that I’m going to meet my self-imposed deadline. I started this book in June and even I have to admit that ten months is a pretty quick turnaround. An extra month or two won’t hurt and will probably help. It’s just that the symbolism is important to me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am going to honor the day. A babyloss mom I know took a meal to the Ronald McDonald House on her daughter’s birthday. I thought that was a lovely idea. I tried to think of some community service I could perform, something to do with babies, or kids.
When an adult dies it’s a little bit easier to know how to memorialize them, because you know what they cared about in life, what they enjoyed. I could have a bourbon in memory of my grandfather, or donate blood at the Red Cross (though not at the same time). I could eat some Russell Stovers in memory of my grandmother, or write a check to Emily’s List in memory of my aunt Ellen. But what would Balthazar like? What would he want me to do? Who knows? All I know is that if he were here he’d want to be with us. Doing whatever.
I may eat a ham and cheese croissant, or a chicken pot pie. Those are the only things I know for sure that he liked.
I was feeling kind of shitty about my inability to think of an appropriate tribute when it occurred to me that I’m writing him a book. I work on it every day. I think about him every day, of course, and then I take what I’ve thought and try to make some sense of it, impose some order on it. I tend to devalue writing because I’ve done it for so long it no longer seems like anything special. But maybe writing a book for my dead son is the best way for me to honor him and I don’t have to kill myself to find some other perfect, grand gesture. Maybe what I’m doing is enough.