My cell phone rings, and I see it is my friend calling. I don’t answer. I heed the voice in my head saying, she won’t say what you want her to say. I leave the phone alone.
It is February 28th, my baby’s birthday and death-day, and a stillness has descended on our house. Outside a cold rain falls from the sky and freezes as it hits the ground. Brian and I sit on the futon in his office with blankets, mugs of tea, and laptops. All day he stokes the fire in the woodstove. We listen to the crackle of burning bark without speaking. We keep the lights low. Now and then I look out at the branches of our maple tree, steadily being encased in ice.
All day I sit, working a little, reading a little. Meanwhile, my laptop stays open to Fa.cebo.ok and email, and the cyber condolence flows in. A hug sent here, a love note there. All day, my baby is being remembered someplace on the globe.
I get only a few condolence calls. This is okay, because my heart is so full that I can barely speak. I let them go to voicemail. When the call comes from my friend, for a moment I consider answering. Did she remember?
No, she did not. On my voicemail she leaves a sixty second rant about delayed flights and the price of gasoline. That’s all. Everything she didn’t say adds to the silence in my house.
* * * * *
The nature of my friendships has changed. Wasn’t there some celebrity in the 1980s who survived a plane crash, and then left her husband for a man who was in the same plane crash? I feel like her sometimes - like you can only really get me if you were on the plane too.
But I haven’t cut anyone out of my life. I have become an enigma to those “before” friends. They have unknowingly inflicted wounds, yet I still need them badly. Sometimes I need a time-out from grief, and a friend who’s never been to the dark side of the moon – plus a martini – can be just the ticket. My “before” friends link me to the “before” me— a self that I once knew and liked but can no longer access. I might need her someday, and they carry memories of her.
But this one friend – I can’t compartmentalize her. I’ve tried limiting our interaction to occasional social outings. But she is accustomed to our friendship running deeper than that. She probes and wants to know how I’m really doing. So I tell her, and she can’t change the subject, or clear the room, fast enough. I fall for it every time, because I believe that she is better than this. For two years I have been throwing my heart into her path, only to watch her casually step around it.
If only she would say my baby’s name just once.
If only she would not complain to me about how hard it is to raise her daughter, born alive five weeks before mine.
If only she did not wonder how the holidays could be hard for me, since they are so fun for her.
If only she would tear up a little about my loss, the way she does at those TLC shows about moms who give their babies up for adoption.
If only she did not think of my loss as a health problem.
If only she believed my baby were real.
* * * * *
If only she were on Fa.cebo.ok.
Thinking of you.
remembering your baby
So simple. So easy. That very tiny bit of love, sent regularly by keyboard, lets me know that my friends care, even if they don’t completely understand. It soothes my beastly bitterness at how the world slights this type of loss. Fa.cebo.ok, of all things, has saved some real friendships, by helping me let people off the hook for not being better at this. (Not you, Dad. If you are my parent, Fa.cebo.oking me on the baby’s birthday does not count.)
Maybe if this friend were on Fa.cebo.ok, she would say those needed little things on cue. Maybe she would see what other humans post to me, and a lightbulb would go on. Oh, that’s what I’m supposed to say!
But that’s a fantasy. Cyber love can’t save this friendship. I’ve gotten myself into a tug of war with someone who doesn’t even know she’s holding the other end of the rope. She can’t imagine the sacred stillness of a house on a dead baby’s birthday – she can’t feel what I’m feeling, even a little bit. The only thing left is for me to drop my end of the rope and walk away.
* * * * * *
How’s it going with your friends from before your loss? Is there anything you wish they would say that they haven’t? How do you handle friends who have hurt or abandoned you during this time? What role does the internet play in your friendships these days?