We spent this weekend in Kentucky, just over the border and river from Cincinnati, all four of us. No one but us knew that the trip was about a weekend of family, in remembrance of losing Stardust a year ago. We went to the same places we went on roughly the same weekend last year when we’d just found out that she wasn’t going to make it. It was our plan to get away with Ava & Lily and each other and just be together. Just be overwhelmed together. The purpose of this year’s trip was similar, with the added focus of remembering Stardust and appreciating our two girls. Less trauma, more introspection.
I’ve obviously been in a heavy place lately anyway and I was a sensitive mess all weekend. Around midnight on Saturday I realized that we’d left the urn with Stardust’s ashes in the car. I jumped up, quickly pulled on my clothes and ran down stairs to valet, shedding private, punishing tears the entire way. I thought about her in that urn, in the glove box, cold. It was the same feeling I had when I found out she’d been transferred to the funeral home by our house and would have to wait a day before being cremated – like I had abandoned her, leaving her cold and alone in a foreign place. It’s the most stripped away and sad place I can go in my mind. I’m there now and tears are running out from under my glasses. This year I realized that I will never forget. This year it became clear that every March 29th I will think to myself about how old Stardust would have been. She’d be eight months right now.
The girls loved being away with us. There are days when I am gone overnight and there are days when Rhonda leaves before they’re awake and doesn’t come home until they’re ready for bed. It’s important that we minimize those times but also that we build in regular days to just be together, to just focus on them, on us. On Saturday morning we went to the aquarium in Newport, Kentucky. Lily was preoccupied with seeing alligators and sharks, or as she says “tharks.” And she didn’t want to see just any tharks, she wanted to see big, mean tharks “ath long ath them can’t get me.” Well, that we did. Ava, on the other hand, wanted to see the new jellyfish display. It’s just funny to me how their distinct personalities influence so many different situations. If any fish at the aquarium fit Ava’s personality, the graceful, colorful jellyfish did. And the sharks fit Lily. So did the alligators, which she loved.
We went to a big lunch at the Fish Market after that. That’s one of my favorite restaurants in Ohio but you know…it made me sick this weekend. Not bad, but bad enough to know that what I was dealing with was most likely from the food. I ordered a platter of oysters and after eating one I looked at Rhonda and said “Hmm…that one was strange.” Hours later my stomach confirmed that it was, in fact, strange. The next day we ran into a lesbian couple with two adopted girls that we’d seen before and I got to talking to one of them about our concurrent trips. She mentioned getting sick from the oysters at the Fish Marker too, so I felt vindicated. I also felt glad that I have a cast iron stomach. I eat everything and I think that serves me well when I run across something like a rogue oyster. My ‘sickness’ was barely more than feeling rough for an hour. This woman said she was up puking all night.
We had planned on going out Saturday night but Ava’s health took a turn for the worse later in the afternoon. Something is going on with her and I’m not sure how worried to be about it. Lately she’s been complaining about her belly again…not exactly how she was prior to the big surgery last year but still, she’s complaining about her belly. And she’s been looking pale too, at least to me. Rhonda says she doesn’t see it. While we were eating lunch, she got real lethargic real fast and started complaining about her stomach and about being tired. I’m pretty sure that set off both my and Rhonda’s alarms. We considered that she hadn’t eaten much today and hadn’t taken a nap. She had a fever too though. We brought her back to the room and let her fall asleep early and stay down for 13 hours. In the morning she seemed better, so maybe we were right. Truthfully, I’m afraid of making too much sense out of it. Last time we intellectualized everything things turned out bad. We’re definitely going to take her in for some tests.
Here’s a funny story. Lily had no intentions of bedding down in the hotel room all night so when Ava got sick, she was super disappointed. She and I decided that we’d go on a little adventure in Kentucky, perhaps going to the mall, definitely picking up some medicine for her sister. So we got dressed, went down to valet and got the car, got buckled in and pulled out of the Marriott parking garage. That’s when she fell fast asleep. I took a deep breath and thought about what to do, finally deciding to press on. It was too much of an ordeal to put the car back into valet and carry her upstairs. The drive time to the Apple Store, where I wanted to go, would give her a little naptime but not too much, right? She’d wake up when we got there and we’d be good to go. That’s what I thought anyway.
But she didn’t wake up at the mall. Not even close. Well, no big deal, I thought. It’s not like she weighs 54 pounds like Ava does. I can carry her. I picked her up like a sack of onions and folded her into my arms. I have a special way of carrying her that I learned when she was a baby. I lock my arms underneath her butt, thereby alleviating some of the stress on my biceps and letting me carry her longer before my arms start burning. Once I had “the grip” situated, we trekked through the mall to the Apple Store, I found a salesperson and started the discussion I was there to have about ipods, ipads, network storage and all kinds of fun things. Actually, the guy was very knowledgeable and I figured out what my next couple purchases would be. However, I didn’t actually make any purchases right then.
That’s because poor Lily was so fast asleep that her internal monitor, you know, the one that alerts her when it’s time to go to the bathroom? Well it was shut down for the night. How do I know? The warm feeling that covered my special baby grip let me know…right before her pants started dripping on the Apple Store floor. There was no stopping it, no hiding it, no getting out of it. I just closed my eyes until the salesman realized that my kid was peeing. Everywhere.
“Oh God,” I think I finally said.
“Yeah. I gotta get out of here. Thanks, er…sorry. Thanks and sorry. I’ll, uh… Well thanks. And sorry.”
I beat it out of that store fast trying to get to the car without looking like I was a kidnapper that just chloroformed and bagged a kid in the Old Navy dressing room. From what I could tell, no one in the mall corridors could tell what had just happened. True, my arms and shirt and the top of my jeans were soaked, but Lily was covering me and no one was much paying attention to us anyway. That is, no one was much paying attention until she did it again.
Yep, somewhere around Express my little girl let loose another nocturnal river that followed the path already forged in the Apple Store and began dripping a path the mall floor behind us. This time people noticed. But I just kept my head down and walked a steady pace towards the exit. Now my biceps were burning…bad. I began chewing my gum very hard, with my mouth open, which was a terrible idea, because Lily’s head was right next to mine and in a matter of seconds her hair had filled my mouth and balled itself up in the stale piece of Dentyne. Now, this is kind of funny to write about, but the reality was stressful. And disgusting. See, at that point I not only had burning biceps and a piss drenched baby (and self) to deal with, but Lily’s hair was attached to my mouth via a peppermint, adhesive gum. I couldn’t spit it out because it would no doubt get even more stuck in her hair. But I couldn’t just pull it away from her hair either because I didn’t have any free hands. Plus I didn’t want to pull her hair because the best thing I had going in this little nightmare was that she was still asleep. The last 100 paces to the car I had to just breath through my nose and dismiss to my mental happy place where I could sit indian style on a sand dune and try not to vomit from the stench of urine that was covering me and the two inch hair ball that was rolling over my tongue. Good times.
This morning we had a big breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then put in a full day at the Imax Theater, Children’s Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Then we even went shopping at the new outlet shops on I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati. Since the girls slept so much last night, they weren’t up for a nap…unfortunately (now they are sitting in the front room torturing each other with dirty looks because we won’t let them go to sleep for another hour). We’ve already decorated the ceiling in their room with the glow in the dark stars that we purchased at the planetarium. Hopefully it will get dark soon so they can see how they look.
But anyway. It was a perfect weekend and the time away definitely served its private purpose to Rhonda and to me. I learned something about myself this week too. I want to have another kid. And to be very specific, in my mind, that baby is a boy. I think this has a lot to do with my recent thinking about my life…backward and forward…hmmm…I can’t decide if I want to go into this right now… if this is the right entry to go into this. I think not.