This is Three (years old)

Today, our boy is three years old.

Last night, I was binging the latest season of Veronica Mars. This has been the first Veronica Mars I’ve ever watched without Tim and it hit me so much harder than I expected. We watched all 3 seasons a full three times and discussed every detail… plus the movie. Which he purchased so fortunately I can watch anytime I want. I was missing him so much watching it and wanting to dissect every detail with him! But last night, on the eve of our boy’s third birthday…. right when – three years earlier – I was in labor and telling him to wake/get up: it was seriously go time…. a commercial came on (because I pay for the cheapest version of hulu) for a photo product… a Dad introducing his baby son to HIS dad, and then zooming out so you see they are looking at a photo and the dad saying to his son, “I wish you could have met him…”

And then I burst into tears. Uncontrollable sobbing on a commercial during Veronica Mars.

People sometimes say to me that it must be easier with/for D. Maybe right now it is easier for D… for the last two years it has certainly been easier with him FOR me. The girls who have real memories of their dad struggle and ask the hard questions. I naturally responded to someone once who said that to me, “well tell him that in ten years.” I didn’t mean it to come off as rude, and the look of horror that was returned I did feel guilty about. I get it. In a situation that is so unimaginably devastating, you want to find the silver linings, the “at least”s… but sometimes, they are not there. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what it feels like to grow up seeing photos of you as a baby with your dad, or photos of your dad, hear people talk about him, but have no memories of him yourself.

I do know this child has every stuffed animal you could dream of, and he chooses to sleep with Daddy doll all the time… Here he is camped out on my floor….

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This morning, my Facebook memories popped up, and on Declan’s 1st birthday, which happened over a month after his father had died, I had written “There’s no getting around it, it sucks that he’s not here to celebrate your first birthday. It’s so unfair….”

And that’s really it, There’s no getting around it. It’s always going to suck that he’s not here. It’s always going to suck that he doesn’t get to grow into a man with this other amazing man in his life, setting an example. Joking, hugging, loving him every step of the way.

Interestingly, that suckiness does not diminish the wonderful human that he is. Our D.

Earlier today, at his school, with his sisters:

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This is three.

So very loved from Heaven and on Earth.

Two years later (alt. title Rainbow)

This was a post I started in June 2019… and had a sync issue writing it on different devices, and then never published it. I can’t believe its now been over two and a half years.  The two year mark was tough though.  D’s broken femur was rough of course, but R’s surgery brought it’s own unique challenges…

 

Last weekend, my sister put a song on she’d already played for the kids and they started all singing it. She said it reminded her of me, but I really couldn’t understand the lyrics with all three of them mumbling along.

So when we declared movie night, I ran up for a shower in the middle of Madagascar 2. I listened to it in the shower and cried my eyes out. Shower and car bawling has been on the rise again lately. I’m not sorry to admit it. I’m only starting to feel like myself again. For the last 6 months, I’ve been surviving. Surviving with the fierce determination of a mother. The broken leg, the secondary trauma, the anxiety I felt leading up to finally having my middle child – my passionate, decisive, middle child – have a surgery I was afraid of since her second week of life, that I spoke to and cried to Tim about, getting the surgery scheduled for the day after her father’s second Deathaversary, scheduling all the support needed to be with her for it / through it, bringing her up to Hopkins for it, being there for it, after it… Possibly the worst of it was that post op was exactly as bad as I had imagined it would be. Beautifully, our friend Dawn (I should say Tim’s friend but I will say our friend) was there with me and I remember saying to her “this is exactly what I was expecting, honestly, but that doesn’t make it easier.”

The longer story about Rose’s surgery starts when I was pregnant with A… at 36 weeks, they declared her with “hydronephrosis.” Unfortunately, our OB/GYN told us that “it could be nothing, and go away before she’s born, all the way to a possible sign of downs syndrome, or many things in between… but don’t worry, very unlikely to be downs based on your previous testing.” Wait.. what?!? Tim and I were distraught. At that time, I was blogging about my pregnancy and Tim asked me not to include this while we processed it. He was fretting that with kidney issues, she wouldn’t be able to play sports. (Because you know – of course he was!) I was just fretting because that’s what I do – and also isn’t that what first time moms do? They put A on an antibiotic the day she was born, and lots of early testing I remember fairly well considering the postpartum hormones. Mostly I remember feeling my first real mama bear instincts… when they put an IV needle in her tiny hand vein and all I could think was let it be me instead – I don’t want her to feel any pain! Then when they gave her a sugar water pacifier so she wouldn’t mind the catheter and it worked like a charm I thought: this is amazing!!!  Where do I get this miracle stuff?  After all the testing, A didn’t have reflux.  She had one kidney that drained slower than the other.  They kept her on the antibiotics through 7 months, monitored periodically, then at 18 months they told us we were done… except RIGHT at that time, they saw it on my last ultrasound with R.  Her hydronephrosis measured smaller (by .1mm) on my ultrasound than A’s did so I hoped hers would be even easier.  She also started on antibiotics on day 1 of birth… and then we went in for her first VCUG (voiding cystourethrogram) at 2 weeks of life just like we did with A… A VCUG helps diagnose vesicoureteral reflux – a condition in which urine flows the wrong way, from the bladder back up to the kidneys.  When we saw the images on the screen, it was obvious to us both that she had reflux… and then they told us: grade 4 or 5.  Basically, as bad as it gets.

Here is a photo of Tim right before R’s first VCUG:

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There I was, post partum with a two week old and the tears just streamed down my face. I knew this was not the end of the world, but I was so sad.   It was Tim’s turn to be strong.  He held me and soothed me, and held R so I could pull myself together.  And he put his big arms around us both while I held her, my sweet baby girl who I could not believe was anything short of perfection.

R spent 3 years on antibiotics which I didn’t love.  Then at 3 years old, fully potty trained they let her go off to see what would happen.  What happened was we rushed her to the hospital or Dr’s office many times with spiked fevers close to 105 degreesF.  She always vomitted when her fever would spike.  They always wanted a urine sample which is HARD with a stubborn 3 year old.  I was relieved she got one right before we went to London so we had antibiotics for London so we couldn’t get it WHILE in London… then we returned and she and I spent New Year’s day at the hospital while I was still nursing D.  So… when the pediatric urologist suggested returning to the antibiotics I said ok!  Back to daily antibiotics… 3 months passed, she turned 4.  Another month passed and our whole world turned upside down.  On the six month anniversary of Tim’s death I found myself with R at the same ER I had taken her father to, in the middle of the night.  I wrote about this in The half year mark.  After that, at the pediatrician follow up, was when I was encouraged to seek a second pediatric urology opinion and referred to see Dr. Gearhart at Johns Hopkins.  That in itself  was interesting, from being asked to come back to discuss the surgery with dad (after it was laid out pretty plainly that it was necessary), explaining, the pity, the “you will find someone else” along with a story that included other men not being threatened because another man won’t be coming around… to scheduling the surgery for August 2018, only to have to reschedule it for June 2019.

It was scheduled for June 12, 2019.  I took off Tuesday through Friday immediately.  Tuesday was the second deathaversary, and the day before we had to be checking into Hopkins early for the surgery.   I did everything with conviction.  I did everything with the fierce determination of a mother.  I had great support at home from my au pair and my father-in-law for the other kids.  And yet.. it took everything out of me.

In October, R and I went back for yet another VCUG (easily her 5th or 6th).  We went to the Fairfax hospital.  The hospital where her father died, but also where he stood in the penguin radiology apron with enthusiasm.  While we were there, I saw that penguin radiology apron, and I told her how Daddy wore it for her very first one.  For the very first time, there was no sign of reflux on the VCUG.  This time, I could have cried from the relief.

As I move more fully into the third year, my goal is to see that rainbow over my head that my sister sees… Here is that song she said reminded her of me:

When it rain it pours but you didn’t even notice
It ain’t rainin’ anymore, it’s hard to breathe when all we know is
The struggle of staying above, the rising water line
Well the sky is finally open, the rain and wind stopped blowin’
But you’re stuck out in the same old storm again
You hold tight to your umbrella, darlin’ I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head
If you could see what I see, you’d be blinded by the colors
Yellow, red and orange and green, and at least a million others
So tie up your bow, take off your coat and take a look around
‘Cause the sky is finally open, the rain and wind stopped blown’
But you’re stuck out in the same old storm again
You hold tight to your umbrella, darlin’ I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head….
– Songwriters: Shane L McAnally / Kacey Lee Musgraves / Natalie Hemby

My broken necklace

The first few days getting dressed for the hospital were a blur… One day I wore the Time Turner necklace Tim got me because he said I was Hermione. Then I pulled out the necklace he bought me in Breckenridge on our first trip there together in early 2008. Two hearts in one with a small diamond… And I wore it every day thereafter. That first day, May 17th, they gave me his ring in a bag. I put it in his toiletry bag I’d been carrying since I arrived with his toothbrush, etc., and then his wallet and phone and other things in. On the day he died I got the ring out, put it on that heart necklace and put it around my neck. I wore it there every day for a year. After the year mark I started wearing it only on special occasions or days I felt I needed extra strength. It is so very heavy. We picked it… Tungsten, for that reason… Indestructible and inexpensive in case he lost it or so he couldn’t destroy it!

I wore it on special days and the Saturday before Easter, when the kids and I took Tim’s dad to see Tim’s bench at Veramar for the first time. A wanted to take a picture of D, Chief and I. We sat together and posed and D started wiggling then pushed hard into my chest and I felt a little crunch-snap. Tim’s ring pushed hard into the chain of my necklace and it broke and the ring and the two hearts charm fell. My heart sank. D ran off. A caught the moment on my phone….

The location was not lost on me. After all the time wearing the necklace… That it would break in the very spot where we exchanged rings… Sitting on the bench I bought to dedicate to him. There, mere steps from where he put it on for the first time.

This song reminds me so much of Tim, and our love. The sentiment may seem off because, um, clearly he did not live forever, but so much of it resonates.

In Case You Don’t Live Forever
You put all your faith in my dreamsYou gave me the world that I wanted
What did I do to deserve you?
I follow your steps with my feet
I walk on the road that you started
I need you to know that I heard you, every word
I’ve waited way too long to say
Everything you mean to me
In case you don’t live forever, let me tell you now
I love you more than you’ll ever wrap your head around
In case you don’t live forever, let me tell you the truth
I’m everything that I am because of you
I, I’ve carried this song in my mind
Listen, it’s echoing in me
But I haven’t helped you to hear it
We, we’ve only got so much time
I’m pretty sure it would kill me
If you didn’t know the pieces of me are pieces of you
I’ve waited way too long to say
Everything you mean to me
In case you don’t live forever, let me tell you now
I love you more than you’ll ever wrap your head around
In case you don’t live forever, let me tell you the truth
I’m everything that I am because of you
I have a hero whenever I need one
I just look up to you and I see one
I’m a man ’cause you taught me to be one
In case you don’t live forever, let me tell you now
I love you more than you’ll ever wrap your head around
In case you don’t live forever, let me tell you the truth
I’m everything that I am
Whoa… whoa…
In case you don’t live forever, let me tell you the truth
As long as I’m here as I am, so are you

Choice

This is me, pumping in the hospital, 2 years ago. I was there fighting for my husband’s life every day, and still making sure I could pump for my 9 month old baby… I took this pic to share with mom friends when I could find no private place to pump, so resorted to a mostly deserted waiting room near the step down unit. I wanted to share this memory today, now, more widely.
Every woman has stories like this. Private things they did with their bodies. Choices they made. I have more.

I want my children to understand the science of women’s bodies, and the choices they have, or SHOULD have regardless of class, status or means. I want them to have all safe, healthy, choices available to them in healthcare. I want them to respect their own and other bodies, and not be ashamed of their bodies. I want my son to understand the science, the social science, and what can and can not be legislated. I want him to understand his own responsibility. I want my daughters to educate and advocate for themselves. Most importantly, I want them all to understand the importance of choice.

Another year without your voice

My dearest Tim,

Here it is, May 16th.  How is it even possible that its been two years since I heard your voice? I wrote about this last year in my post Reliving the trauma – a year without your voice, and so tonight I pulled up old videos, to do just that: to hear your voice.  It’s so good to hear it.   But hearing it reminds me how MUCH I miss it.  How much am I allowed to sit in that pain?  How much do I need to let go?  I tell anyone who asks me to let themselves simply feel what they are feeling.  Don’t rush, don’t try to force yourself to feel differently.  But that is advice that its so much harder to give myself.

I miss your voice, I miss your FACE, I miss your LAUGH.  I miss your big, lanky SELF.  I miss the way you (impossibly) tried to make yourself small.  If you had told me this was coming, and asked me what I would miss, all of that is obvious. All of that I could have predicted.  What I would not have known is how much I even miss the things about you that got on my nerves.  There are times now when I find myself seriously missing and longing for the things that drove me crazy in life.  That would surprise you even more than it surprises me!

How is it possible that I’ve had two trips around the sun since I last heard your voice? Since we last talked and joked with each other, and the nurses? Since they told me they would need to intubate soon?  Since you told me you were just so tired, and just wanted to sleep?  I do not know how it is possible, but here we are.

I spent some time thinking of this letter and the things I would want to tell you if I had just a few minutes to tell you things… the very very top is this:  Oh if you could see them, Tim!  The other day I said out loud to someone “my oldest was in Kindergarten when my husband died” and I saw the effect that had on them.. this person who knew I had three children… my OLDEST was in KINDERGARTEN.  I saw it, but it wasn’t something I had thought about before.  I thought about it tonight when I looked at videos with you and the kids. How YOUNG they were in the videos with you.  How evident your love for them is in each one. Goodness, Tim, how they’ve grown!  A has improved her speech, and is playing lacrosse and loving it! She can be a total jerk to her siblings, and as a fellow oldest child, you would have more sympathy and understanding for that than I do.  She is thoughtful, her attention to detail and memory is incredible.  She absolutely LOVES when we have visitors, she gets SO excited when we have guests.  She loves to have anyone and everyone come, and yet she is the one who thrives most on one-on-one attention.  She is the MOST looking forward to your baseball game next month!  R is in kindergarten now!  And the end of the year is approaching.  Two years ago, just before you got sick, A brought home a packet of Patriotic songs, for her June 13th patriotic performance.  All through the time you were in the hospital folks at the house sent me video of her practicing her songs.  Then the performance was two days after you died.  I went faithfully, but when they got to “My Country tis of thee” and Annabelle faltered on the line “land where my father died”… I LOST it.  Now, R is preparing for that same concert.  We shall see how it goes.   R is a goofball.  She is not serious like A.  She has a great sense of humor, just like her Dad.  Also like you, things tend to come easily to her, especially writing and math.  She FEELS BIG like you as well… which can be so beautiful, and can be so challenging!  D just potty-trained!  And he rocked it!  He also has a great sense of humor!   He’s less good about sleep.  But, I think he’s a genius.  I love to watch him play on his own and use his imagination.  You two would have so much fun playing together!  He absolutely LOVED the hockey game, and the basketball game this winter.  I think he will be addicted to sports like you.  And I think he’s going to be a leftie!  But even better, he has a kind soul.

I’d want to tell you about the disappointing things going on in our country and in the world… I’d want to hear your outrage – not because I want you to be upset, but because it always inspired me, and because I’d know there was one more white male in this country who GOT IT.   I’d want to tell you what has happened with me, with my work,  ask your advice, report on friends, with other family.. well, I’d want to tell you everything.  But you probably wouldn’t let me get to it if we were short on time.  All you’d want to hear would be our children. I wish you could see them now!  I like to believe you can.  I wish we could see you!   I guess I do.  I see so much of you in them every day.   No matter what, you live on in us.

All my love, always,

MaryBeth

Mothers Day 2019

I shared this on Facebook but later thought it important to capture here for the kids. This past weekend was Mother’s day weekend. I took off Friday. Specifically to do the three day potty training approach. Man did our guy rock it. Yes, it’s still a work in progress moving forward after this weekend, but he took to it better than I imagined! That was his Mother’s day gift to me ♥️ What more could I possibly ask for?! He and I had a really great day together Friday, I love learning more about his personality. He and the girls both brought home amazing homemade cards and gifts.

There are many emotions on Mother’s day. A hyped Hallmark holiday… and yet we want to be sure to send love to all the mothers or motherly in our lives♥️…and yet it is a day of many emotions, and difficult for many, either due to the loss of a mother, the loss of or longing for a child, or an estranged relationship… I was blessed with a wonderful mother, I was blessed that motherhood came to me relatively easily. And for these things I am sincerely grateful.
But mother’s day will also be forever the last weekend we were together, the Gaige party of five. I am grateful for the reason to have a card in his handwriting from that last weekend, with words I look at often when mothering seems more than I can handle. But I will never again be greeted or reassured on Mother’s day by the man who made me a mother. This heavy sadness of the day is unshakable. Yet I count my blessings, for they are many. What ever this holiday stirs in you, Happy Mother’s day to all my beautiful village. ♥️

Second Annual Tim Gaige Memorial Event

This year, we will again hold the Tim Gaige memorial sporting event in June at the Potomac Nationals stadium. Thanks so much to everyone who came out last year!  I love that the kids have a fun way to honor and remember Daddy while giving back!

This year’s game will be held at 6:35pm on Saturday June 8th, at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium 7 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, Virginia 22192. Potomac Nationals vs. Lynchburg Hillcats – It is Military Appreciation Night, to include Camo Hat giveaway! Fireworks! and Kids Run the Bases!

To read more about why I chose to benefit Together Rising, you can go to last year’s post.

The link to buy tickets is below, $20 each. This year $14 of your ticket will go directly to Together Rising to help people in need. You have to use our specific link for it to go to the fundraiser.

We will sit in the Grandstands on the first baseline. If we sell 100 tickets, we will get to throw out the first pitch! (Like Declan and Lucas did last year!)

To make it easier to spot me on arrival I plan to wear an orange tshirt because it was Tim’s favorite color! I would encourage you to wear orange too if you have it!

https://pn1.glitnirticketing.com/pnticket/web/gpcaptchaRC.php?ordersrc_id=200&gpid=284
password is: gaige

For those interested in donating to the cause, but who can not join us for the game:

https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/GAIGE

Gaige #partyofFive (one in utero) enjoying a Potomac Nationals game in May 2016