What I Yam

I’m fifty today.

I can’t tell you why I’ve returned to writing today but I can tell you why I stopped. My last post was on my third Father’s day without Elena. I wrote about my family and about the losses of two friends of mine. Someone commented within days that he was disappointed in me because he felt that I’ve “yet to reach the stage of pure acceptance, and willingness to move on. I was looking for the entry that essentially said that you have come to terms with your grief, and finally realize that the fact that you have a child who died makes you no different and no more special than anyone else. Death doesn’t define the person who has to go on living, or at least it shouldn’t.”

Well I don’t think having a child who died makes me more special than anyone else but I do think it makes me different. It colors everything I experience. Today is my birthday and I love the time I’m spending with friends and family. But every time someone asks me what I want for my birthday, I think “I want my baby back.”

This is as unrealistic as when I was younger and wanted James Earle Jones’ voice for my birthday. I stopped at least half an octave short of that dream. I still have a voice I’ve come to be at peace with and occasionally even like.

Similarly, just because I can’t have Elena back doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the people and things that surround me. I’ll never say “This is C N N” and I’ll never again see my two girls together.

It’s my birthday and I think it’s yet another milestone Elena never lived to see me through and one she never lived to experience for herself.

I accept that she’s dead but I’m not sure what a willingness to move on would bring me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend my days immobilized by her death. I don’t think I’m a drag to be around. I don’t think I’m depressed or prone to mope. But Elena’s life and death remain with me and define as much as my marriage to Kim and my being Maggie’s dad.

When I got married and again when we adopted Maggie I got a glimpse at what “forever” means. When Elena died I lost track a little bit. At first her death was like a sprint. I carried it with me with pain and intensity that you can only endure in a short run with a clear goal. Over the first months it turned into a marathon. The pain was still there but it was pacing itself for the longer race. But a marathon still ends and the irony of Elena’s death is that it helped me realize that you can’t run through life as if you are heading to a finish line.

So if moving on means living my life and trying to get the most out of it—then I’m there. If it means not thinking of our loss or my little girl then I’m comfortable knowing that I never will be.

Fifty feels like the Popeye years are beginning. Some of you may be disappointed in my lack of growth or progress with respect to Elena’s death but “I Yam what I Yam.” Others may complain about the shallowness of my writing. I’m ok with that too.

I woke up this morning with so many things I want to accomplish. You are welcome to join me or not. I love having you along, but I’m writing these pages for me.

I think I’m going to love being fifty.

I’m fifty today.
I can’t tell you why I’ve returned to writing today but I can tell you why I stopped. My last post was on my third Father’s day without Elena. I wrote about my family and about the losses of two friends of mine. Someone commented within days that he was disappointed in me because he felt that I’ve “yet to reach the stage of pure acceptance, and willingness to move on. I was looking for the entry that essentially said that you have come to terms with your grief, and finally realize that the fact that you have a child who died makes you no different and no more special than anyone else. Death doesn’t define the person who has to go on living, or at least it shouldn’t.”
Well I don’t think having a child who died makes me more special than anyone else but I do think it makes me different. It colors everything I experience. Today is my birthday and I love the time I’m spending with friends and family. But every time someone asks me what I want for my birthday, I think “I want my baby back.”
This is as unrealistic as when I was younger and wanted James Earle Jones’ voice for my birthday. I stopped at least half an octave short of that dream. I still have a voice I’ve come to be at peace with and occasionally even like.
Similarly, just because I can’t have Elena back doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the people and things that surround me. I’ll never say “This is C N N” and I’ll never again see my two girls together.
It’s my birthday and I think it’s yet another milestone Elena never lived to see me through and one she never lived to experience for herself.
I accept that she’s dead but I’m not sure what a willingness to move on would bring me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend my days immobilized by her death. I don’t think I’m a drag to be around. I don’t think I’m depressed or prone to mope. But Elena’s life and death remain with me and define as much as my marriage to Kim and my being Maggie’s dad.
When I got married and again when we adopted Maggie I got a glimpse at what “forever” means. When Elena died I lost track a little bit. At first her death was like a sprint. I carried it with me with pain and intensity that you can only endure in a short run with a clear goal. Over the first months it turned into a marathon. The pain was still there but it was pacing itself for the longer race. But a marathon still ends and the irony of Elena’s death is that it helped me realize that you can’t run through life as if you are heading to a finish line.
So if moving on means living my life and trying to get the most out of it—then I’m there. If it means not thinking of our loss or my little girl then I’m comfortable knowing that I never will be.
Fifty feels like the Popeye years are beginning. Some of you may be disappointed in my lack of growth or progress with respect to Elena’s death but “I Yam what I Yam.” Others may complain about the shallowness of my writing. I’m ok with that too.
I woke up this morning with so many things I want to accomplish. You are welcome to join me or not. I love having you along, but I’m writing these pages for me.
I think I’m going to love being fift
Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 6:31 am  Comments (23)  

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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Happy B-Day Daniel,

    I’m stoked to see you start a cooking show, design an amazing building, define new mathematical constructs, or just keep doing what you are doing.

    Sounds to me like you are in a very very good place.

  2. Happy Birthday!

    I’m glad to see you writing again, but you don’t have to worry about that. I love that you’re writing for yourself.

    I hope I never fully understand what you’ve gone through (and are still going through), but your writing has helped me understand it a little bit. And that has helped me, by contrast, to understand what I have, and to appreciate it more. That’s a wonderful gift. Thank you!

  3. Happy Birthday! I’ve had you on my blogroll for a long time. It was nice to see a post today. I have a little girl who fought GBS meningitis and your blog made a tremendous impact on me…especially back when she was very ill.

    People will say a whole lot of things. It doesn’t mean they’re valid or even worth a moment of your time. That individual’s statement was completely ridiculous. Ignorant.

  4. I think “acceptance” is unique for each person. My Dad would have been 60 tomorrow. I’m not in denial. I’m no longer angry. But I’ll still sad. I think this songwriter got it right:

    Missing you is just a part of living.
    Missing you feels like a way of life.
    I’m living out the life that I’ve been given,
    But I still wish you were mine.

    Here’s a toast to another year! Happy birthday!

  5. First, happy birthday.

    Second, I have been reading for a long time, and was so pleased to see a post come up in my feed reader this morning.

    Third, no one gets to tell you what you should feel. No one. What you said here makes absolute sense to me.

  6. My father’s twin brother died when they were 26 years old. My grandmother was said to have lost 10 years of her life in that one day. She lived to be 96 years old… never, and I mean never, did I visit that Uncle Larry’s name didn’t come up or some reference to him come to light. It wasn’t morbid or sad. He lived in her and in her memories and through her… we all learned to love him, know his personality, and hear the tales of who he was.

    You have the right to carry Elena with you, however you wish. Because, she is your daughter and death will never change that for you or her.

  7. I saw this post on your birthday but didn’t get a chance to comment.

    So: happy belated birthday. I miss your posts.

  8. Happy belated birthday also, hope it was great. I came across your blog and immediately though of a book that you might like. The book I’m thinking of is called Replacement Child. It’s a memoir written by Judy Mandel. I think you would like it as it’s inspirational, hopeful and uplifting . It can also be funny in some parts too. A real great book to cuddle up in front of a fire.

  9. I was having a really down day, for really no reason in particular. Have read your posts in the past and always wondered why you stopped. This new one gave my day a sense of comfort, changed my way of thinking about the day….thanks

  10. Your blog touched my heart long before I knew that I would also lose a child. After my son’s death ‘Dear Elena’ became a lifeline and inspiration.

    I was sad when it looked as if you stopped writing here and happily surprised when I saw a new post. I hope you are back, sharing your thoughts and your wisdom.

    The person who left that comment that you refer to, clearly has never lost a child and I have further doubt if he/she was a regular follower of your blog because I cannot imagine anyone who had really read your story to be so cold and heartless.

    Love
    Alison

  11. I too read your blog and added it to my favourites. At intervals I go through my list and take certain blogs off but although you stopped posting I still could’nt bring myself to delete yours just in case a post might appear again one day.

    So, from across the other side of the world may I wish you a belated “Happy Birthday” and thank you so much for all your pearls of wisdom.

    Val

  12. Thanks for writing on your 50th. Your sprint-marathon concept is expressive, visual, and poignant. Your words inspire me. Maybe this year I’ll finally have the strength to simply get the track shoes on my feet.

  13. The loss of the ones we love never gets any easier, it only gets “different”.

    Happy birthday. I hope you enjoy your 50s to the fullest. You continue to inspire me, and I was glad to see an update. Best wishes to you and yours.

  14. Dear Daniel
    For some reason today I ended up on Dear Elena. Don’t stop missing her, don’t stop wishing she were here, don’t stop wanting her back. I have a few pictures of Elena and there are moments that I look at the God Gifted smile and tear up. We too miss her, we too wish she were here, we too hurt for you and your family. Yes, we all need to move on, but I understand, there are days still that I gasp for air because I want my dad back.

    We love and miss all of you.
    Oh by the way if you get this, Jeff and I are moving to Nashville!

  15. People who presume to tell us when it’s time to move on don’t know what they’re talking about. The best that can be said about them is that they lack humility.

    You will always love and miss Elena. If that makes some people uncomfortable, that’s their problem.

    You are a wonderful writer.

    What’s happening with the book project?

  16. Your writing is very powerful.
    Thanks for this post!

  17. I have a young daughter named elena and i just did a random search of her name online. i found your site and couldn’t stop reading. her birthday is 2/22/09 and the coincidence just struck me. your words and memories are beautiful. thank you for sharing them

  18. I’ve read your blog for several years. Did notice that nothing had been posted for sometime. i enjoy your writings and I look forward to future ones. Nothing in life ever prepares us for the loss of loved one, especially a child. Thoughts and Prayers-k

  19. You inspire us

  20. Some people just suck. I remember that comment from before, because it was very mean-spirited. It’s the kind of comment that can cut you to the core, make you wonder if that’s what everyone is thinking.

    Let me tell you, my grandparents had 5 of their own children (and raised 2 “adopted” children in addition). At the age of 16, one of their daughters was in an automobile accident that, combined with medical incompetence, took her life. That was over 40 years ago and they *still* are not over it. And no one expects them to be. Sure, they get about their everyday life just fine. But they remember her always and hold her dearly in their hearts. And that’s as it should be.

    Some people will never understand that, and will loudly state their opinions. That doesn’t make them any more right than if they tell you the Pope lives in Philadelphia. Remember that your feelings are what’s right for you, and that’s all that matters. We only get upset over other people’s crazy opinions when we fear they are right, or that they will win everyone over to their false statements. Let me assure you that you have no worries about either one here.

  21. Just FYI – adopted is in quotes in the above since those children were never formally adopted, but for were raised by my grandparents since they were toddlers.

  22. You and Elena and your whole family are in my prayers. Commenters have no right or reason to be disappointed in you. Thank you for your always beautiful words.

    cw in Chicago

  23. Your writing is anything but shallow. I don’t believe anyone who would say that knows the meaning of the word.


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