Tuesday, March 18, 2014

sinking feelings, unflashbacks, and the memories I want to see

There's a feeling a parent gets when they think there might be something wrong with their child. I don't know a single parent who hasn't felt it - and anyone I've described this to lately has it written all over their face before I've even finished my sentence. It's that gut feeling, a twisted up feeling, heart sinking feeling, the wind taken out of you. It usually just lasts a second or two, relieving upon finding everything okay then turning into a sort of euphoric blood rushing feeling. Sigh of relief feeling.
I can think of a number of times I felt it over Hannah, ...like that time she disappeared from my sight in Sears, barely a toddler.. it was just a second, but I swear I can still feel that sinking feeling at the thought of it. I never gave the side eye to a parent with a toddler on a "leash"after that.

I can't shake the feeling for Finn. I'll never find him safe, he'll never be okay.. ..it leaves me with that sinking feeling, constantly, and a knot in my gut I don't know how to untangle. Sometimes, not always, but often enough throughout the day to keep me moving slow, comes a rush of all these feelings at once - it feels like a rush of hot water flowing through inside me from my head to my toes, my heart sinks, I get dizzy, the gut twists tighten, then it's as if all the feelings rush back up out of me. It's happened when I've been out walking... causing me to fall off the sidewalk.

It happens when the reality of what happened comes to me - flashbacks.., a subject of much discussion in our counselling sessions with Hugh. I understand they are important clues to understanding what my subconscious mind is trying to sort out, I try to pay attention. They're not necessarily actual memories, though they are repeating scenes and events of that night and following day, sometimes I see them in weird ways - selective ways.
I'm always very small in the flashbacks, everyone else being very big, tall and warped as if standing in a funhouse with mirrors that distort the body. People's faces are huge. It's like this for my memories of Finn's funeral too. I felt so small ..in a room full of huge faces.
This is the stuff I can't help, I wish my head wouldn't go to these places.

I put an extraordinary effort into only thinking of Finn in the few glorious days that we had him. The photo prints I ordered from Shutterfly have been spread over the dining room table for weeks.. I don't have the heart to hide them in an album, I want to be able to see them all the time.
It helps me to focus on what we had... because we did have something that so many didn't get. Finn and Lily lived almost the same amount of time, but Marie and Fred never had those glorious days that we did with Finn. They don't have a table full of the happiest memories like we do. They lived our final day with Finn for every day of Lily's life. I can't imagine surviving that as a parent.

Another challenging mind game my subconscious plays with me, as I understand a lot of grieving parents do, is a "flashback"of events that never happened. The unflashback.
I see Finn age, and I see him die over and over again in horrific ways. A few weeks ago a 24 year old (young) man was killed on 11/17 after crashing head on with two trucks; the story of the accident repeated over and over again throughout the morning each time the news aired. I eventually just had to turn the radio off. I kept seeing Finn in that accident - aged perfectly as himself. I spent the rest of the day wondering how the young man's parent's felt - how would it feel to have 24 glorious years with our son, only to lose him so tragically? I wouldn't have wanted Finn to die like that.

The idea of a worse case scenario seems awful, but I know other parent's who are doing the same thing. If Finn was going to lose his life too soon, and within my lifetime, there are worse ways it could have happened... does it soften the blow? No.., but I can say that I don't think Finn suffered, ..I don't think.. I try not to think about that.
It's sort of unavoidable to scroll through Facebook and not see the face of some child who is either dealing with cancer, or having just been given a clean bill of health, standing there hairless with a sign asking for likes. Through Bronwyn's page I've seen so many stories of families living through years of treatments, displaced, living in hospitals and hotels to be by their dying child's bedside. People might look at me and wonder how I get up every day and put one foot in front of the other, but I look at these families and instantly get that sinking dizzy feeling. I can't not imagine what it would have been like to watch Finn suffer for years before he died.

Finn's life was short, but what a life he had.. Finn never knew hate, he only knew love. His arrival was the most anticipated, exciting time in so many lives. Everyone gushed over him - that was all he ever knew. He was adorable and he was loved and he was told that a million times a day. His big sister thought he was the cutest thing she'd ever seen. (He was soooo cute. Everyone thought so.)
He was always held, he only spent a few hours in total either in his car seat, his swing briefly, his bassinet once while I went to the bathroom, a co-sleeper for a few minutes (that didn't work too well)...and once he slept on the bed beside me while I made some phone calls one morning. Every other moment of his life he was held in the arms by someone who loved him deeply. He was always wrapped up in his soft blue blanket, always.
Finn received his first Tonka truck from Lori and J.R., and he danced to the songs of Glee; he watched a couple beautiful sunrises with his mom, and he was licked by a dog (best medicine ever to some people). Finn made grown men coo (ask any of those guys at Armstrong movers), he had a little girlfriend..Anna, born not long after him whose family we kept running into those first few days of medical check ups and healthy baby visits.
Finn lived, in my mind, during the two most beautiful weeks of the year. All those painted trees of September, the bright blue skies and wild sunrises.. If I was going to live for only ten+ days I would want it to be in late September.

a September sunrise
the reflection in the window
shows a bundle of Finn in my arms
Sometimes these unflashbacks bring me to places with Finn where again he's aged, but he's not dying..we're just together - one scene, for instance, we are sitting at the piano together, he's maybe a little more than two, his little boy legs just dangle off the bench, bruised with dirty little sneakers hanging off of them. I can see his face perfectly. It's Finn, just older, with more hair, but still light and a little curly. First I see his toddler profile, then he looks up at me and I can see his little toddler face - perfectly.. it's him.
I can remember the flashback, talk about it, write about it...but it's the not the same as when it's actually happening, and I'm there. It makes me feel very at peace.

I often focus on that piano scene when I'm meditating - whether it's during yoga or doing the breathing exercises Sarah has taught me; I focus on his curious toddler face and pretend I'm that giant oak tree out front breathing in through my roots and out through my leaves. That's only one of the million tools used every day to keep putting one foot in front of the other. If I just remember to breathe, and focus on Finn's spirit being with me forever, always seeing that face, and not see any other the other stuff...maybe, maybe I could lose that twisted feeling inside me, stop sinking on sidewalks. Sadly I think the two are too much a part of one another. All of it was Finn's life, and I'll never forget a second of it.
He looked directly at my camera,
then at me
as if to say,
"I've got the hang of this posing for the camera thing, mom." 

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