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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Terror and birthdays

This is not the post I meant to write for LG's birthday.

When LG was two months old, I took him back to my hometown for the first time, to meet my grandma in the nursing home where chronic pain had placed her and senility was keeping her.

It was a difficult trip. LG shrieked inconsolably throughout the two-hour car ride, both there and back. My grandma was unresponsive when presented with the baby and told that he was named for her beloved late husband. I was exhausted, bone-tired -- I hadn't slept more than two hours at a stretch in two months. I missed Mr. Blue, who was teaching for the first time that semester, and would be away from us until late into the evening.

I got home well after 9P.M. to find the house still dark. My nerves frayed to the merest whisper, I burst into tears when I nearly dropped the baby as I tripped over a foreign object left in front of the door on our porch. I tossed the package onto a chair with a fury, and moaned with all the melodrama of sleeplessness, "This is the worst day of my life!"

That was September 10, 2001.

Everyone has a story from the next day. Mine is that I spoke on the phone to my sister-in-law in China, desperate for news of her parents, who were in New York City that day. They were safe; my sister-in-law was relieved. She and her husband had moved to Shanghai from New York City less than a year before. He had worked in the World Trade Center for quite awhile.

I could hear my brother-in-law saying something in the background. My sister-in-law said, "He says that Cousin S. still works in the World Trade Center."

Cousin S. I hardly knew him. I'd met him two, maybe three times. I'd seen him last Thanksgiving with his toddler son and his wife, who, I'd since heard, was pregnant with twins.

I hung up. The images of burning, collapsing towers were endlessly looping on the TV. My knees were weak, and baby LG was fussing. I went to sit down on the chair, and there was the package from the night before. A present addressed to LG. From the parents of Cousin S.

Cousin S. never came home. And for months afterwards, I could not hold my sweet beautiful brilliant sleepless baby boy without thinking that he had twin baby cousins just two months younger than he -- who would never meet their daddy. And I would weep, for them, for him, for all of us who had thought that we were living lives under our own control, outside the fatal grasp of history.

My precious LG, whom I love so much it makes my heart ache, this is not the era that I would have chosen for you. These are not the stories I wanted to tell you. This is not the world in which I hoped you would find.

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