The Present Absence

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree, / Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, / Yet knows it’s bought more silent than before: / I cannot say what loves have come and gone, / I only know that summer sang in me / A little while, that in me sings no more.  -Edna St. Vincent Millay, “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

Seven years ago today, I was musing over my mellow, two-month-old baby.  That was my present.

Six years ago today, I went to Starbucks with my 14-month-old toddler in tow.  That was my present.

Five years ago today, I was headed to Wisconsin for the weekend with my 2-year-old, and five months pregnant.  That was my present.

Four years ago today, I was at Starbucks (again) and thankful for peaceful moments with my two boys.  That was my present.

Three years ago today, I was collecting large branches that had been blown into our backyard after a huge storm.  That was my present.

Two years ago today, I was reflecting on my experience in Kansas, helping to serve hot meals to the homeless on a cold, snowy day.  That was my present.

One year ago today, I was recovering from a different type of storm.  It was ten weeks after Nelle was stillborn.  I was angry over statistics I was reading about how rare pregnancy loss is in the second trimester.  I was apprehensive about the upcoming holidays.  And on this day, I took a pregnancy test, and knew that I was pregnant again.  That was a present, and I thought that it would be my future.

Now present.  I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  I haven’t been sleeping well.  Quentin has a fever.  Two friends are dealing with difficult pregnancy-related news this week.  The holidays are looming again.  And this weekend, I am attending a writing workshop on “telling the story.”  I have to tell the story, to a group of women, who do not know me or my story.  Never met before.  Drawing into the present means somehow learning to talk about the past, the absence, the loss.  I did that last month, in attending a support meeting for parents who had pregnancy/infant loss, and it was hard.  It was hard to get the words past the lump in my throat.  Writing is easier because I can formulate words, think, rearrange.  Talking in a group is still incredibly difficult.

But that is my present. There are two losses, and I have to keep talking.  I have to talk about them, to recognize them.  If I do not speak about them, with either uttered words or written words, they become past tense.  I have to keep them present, no matter how much it hurts.