Thursday, September 19, 2013

Voices from the past

When I was a little girl I used to dream about hearing my father's voice. I dreamt of what it would sound like when he would pick up the phone and how happy he would sound to talk to me. I was a little girl. Innocent. Naive. Silly. Unknowing.
On my tenth birthday my mom asked me what I wanted and I told her that what I really, truly wanted was to talk to my daddy on the phone. I had never met him. Never seen his face. Never heard him say my name. And I longed so much to speak to him. So she took me in the kitchen, handed me the receiver and dialed the number. I remember being so nervous- in a happy, excited way. It played out in my head and all the possible endings were happy. I was wrong.
"Hello". It was him.
"Gene? Is this Gene?" I asked sheepishly. I was so nervous. So scared.
" Who is this?" There was something in his voice immediately. It was noticeable and it tied me in knots right away.
" Hi dad. This is your daughter. This is Jeanie."
Long pause.
" Who is this?" He demanded this time. His voice was even and very quiet now.
 I was nearly in tears when I answered again.
"Dad. Gene. This is your daughter. This is Jeanie."
Long pause.
"You have the wrong number. Don't ever call here again."
And then the line went dead.
I'm not really sure how long I stood there. How long I cried or if I really cried or just felt like crying. I just remember feeling more pain than a ten year old should feel or was equipped to process. I never heard my father's voice again after that day. He would never agree to speak to me or meet with me and even when the doctors told him several years later that he had only weeks to live, he wasn't brave enough to face me and allow me the chance to get to know him. He died when I was 17 and with him went any chance of my ever getting to hear my daddy's voice.
Or so I thought.
Last year after many years of searching family records and researching my biological father's history I "met" a wonderful lady named Katie. She lives in Ohio and her husband just happens to play and sing in a band with this incredible man named Kenny. Kenny, as it turns out was a bandmate and former best friend of my father. Katie put me in touch with Kenny and his lovely wife and through several hours of conversation I now "know" my father. Kenny's wife even dug up an old OLD promo shot of my father and allowed me to have it copied so I have a photograph of him.What an incredible gift these people have given this total stranger who just popped up into their lives one day!! And it gets even better.
During one of those conversations with Kenny and his wife they mentioned something about records. It turns out my father had recorded and released two 45's in 1960. Who knew?! Through months of research and digging I found two different eclectic record collectors who actually had copies of them and they sold them to me. So I became the proud owner of my father's records. Of course...without a record player-I STILL couldn't hear his voice!!!
In May we travelled home to Ohio for the weekend. In my mother's sunroom we sat with her record player and my father's records. And that room.....that sad, broken ten year old little girl got to hear her daddy's voice. And it was wonderful.
Today......that little girl is listening again. Katie sent me a message a couple days ago and asked if I would call her. It seems that she hasn't stopped looking for people who knew my dad. (I love that woman!) Seems there is a man named Sammy and his wife who knew my father and played music with him sometimes. Katie had talked to him and Sammy seemed to recall having an old cassette tape somewhere that they recorded sitting around the kitchen table one night. Well, turns out he dug it out....gave it to her and Katie's husband Perry made a CD and they needed my address so they could send it off to me.
So ...... here sits that little girl.......with tears rolling down her cheeks......listening to her daddy play his guitar as he sings 29 songs in such a beautiful voice. There's no anger in his voice. There's no secrecy. And there's no pain. And I don't think I can ever possibly thank Sammy, his wife, Katie, Perry, Kenny or his wife enough for the gift they have all given me. They gave me something that I thought died when I was 17. They gave me the chance to know and hear my daddy.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Five Days

Five days. It's five days from now that will mark the sixth anniversary of the day my daughters were born. Six years ago on THIS date I was told they had died. And I waited......five days. For five days life for everyone else continued........but for me-it stopped. In that five days I cried, I sobbed, I begged and pleaded and even negotiated with God and I all but refused to leave my house. For five days I pretended that the doctor was wrong and imagined that on the fifth day I would arrive at the hospital and they would all discover their mistake. I dreamt I would bring home two precious and perfect little girls in spite of what they said,what I knew and what was real. For those five nights I lie awake willing my stomach to move indicating life within.......but it didn't.
In five days my living children will do as we have each year.....we will sing, we will laugh, I will cry and we will all remember. My oldest sons will remember the siblings they never met, they will call their mother and let her know they are thinking of her and love her and they will again be reminded of the fear and helplessness they felt watching their broken mother lie in her bed,curled in a ball and unable to move. My oldest two daughters will talk of how tall their sisters might be now, which one would be the "leader" and will remember how briefly they knew the excitement of knowing they would have twin sisters to love on. (They girls didn't know I was pregnant until two weeks before the twins died. They had been kidnapped by their father and only returned two weeks before Chloe and Zoe died.) Lily will ask again why Chloe and Zoe had to die and remember how much she was looking forward to playing mother hen to them both until they were taken from all of us. Georgie,who was not yet two at the time-will again ask why he was never able to meet his baby sisters, tearily remind us all how badly he wants to be a big brother and how it isn't the same being a big brother to sisters you can't actually touch and will remind us all that someday-we WILL get to see them. In Heaven.
Five days from now we will endure another birthday-without them......but there are things that will happen before we reach that day. There will be tears shed on the first day of school when, instead of walking four children to school and leaving in tears as I say "have a great day" to my new kindergartners I will only be sending two children and will watch wistfully as the other kindergarten moms and dads tear up at the pending day long separation. There will be moments of wonder at what they would look like, how tall they would be, what their personalities would be and how incredibly loud and chaotic this house might be.....if they were here.
And there will be days like today. Days when I sit down to watch a movie that has a little meaning for us and realize it has even more meaning than I knew. There have been a couple times on their birthday when movies are released that sort of "jump out" at us and make us want to go and spend "their day" with that movie. On their third birthday,which we spent in Ohio, "Nanny McPhee Returns" was released. The day of their birthday. We went. We laughed and cried a little and enjoyed spending part of our time "with them" watching a whimsical,funny,loving movie about a mom and her children and a magical nanny. Then last year, on their fifth birthday the movie "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" was released. Watching the trailers weeks before we KNEW we had to see that movie on their birthday. It's a wonderful movie with the same elements as our prior choice.....magical,whimsical,loving and funny. And it's about a family,too. We loved it. And then I watched it this morning.
This morning as I sat enjoying the cool breeze coming through the open windows I watched Timothy teach his family and his town about love and many other things. The first time I watched this movie I noticed that the daughter these parents adopt in the end is named Lily. Of course I found that touching and ironic since the movie came out ON Chloe and Zoe's birthday and I happen to have a daughter named Lily. But today there was a moment when I completely fell apart,in tears and realized so much more. There is a moment in the movie after Timothy leaves and moves on. His parents are heartbroken and read a letter left by him explaining who he gave his leaves to and why. Timothy met a girl who became his best friend while he was there. She got two leaves. As he was explaining this and the camera moves to her smiling face my eyes caught the image of her necklace. A dragonfly. I hadn't noticed it before. I instantly began to sob. In THAT moment the irony of all of it came to me.
Both movies center around a character who comes to a family in need. They become beloved members of those families only to leave unexpectedly just when the families grow to love them the most. Both movies were released on August 20th. And there'e the dragonfly and Lily. To most people these things - even grouped together-would mean nothing. They would be mere coincidence and dismissed as nothing more than that. But to my fellow baby loss mommas out get it. You understand how it only takes one of those things to trigger emotion and how several combined can invoke a full on meltdown.  And I had one.
And now....I wait. Five more days. To have another meltdown. To celebrate another missed milestone. Another missed birthday. Another missed year.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Time for some kindness

That's it. Simple. Click the link,follow it to the invite and join!! Share the invitation with all of your friends and then come back here or email me with your photos and stories at jwatts67 at yahoo. Help me celebrate the short time we had together here and the eternity we will share later.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013


So-I did some reading this morning. Yes,I know...this is nothing extraordinary. Except this morning it sort of was. This reading was nearly five years in the making. This reading was different. 
      Almost six years ago I gave birth to two tiny, beautifully perfect baby girls. They were breathtaking. Chloe came first.....destined to forever be the "big sister" of the two. Zoe followed exactly one minute later.......the youngest of eight siblings......truly the baby of the family. The day should have been filled with tears of joy, squeals of happiness and endless talk of which one would walk first or who would be most like which sibling and even some bickering over which older sibling would take which twin under their wing and teach them the ropes. But there was none of that. 
     There were constant tears but they held no joy. They were the tears of a shattered and broken mother saying good-bye to her babies. The squeals were not happy-they were the sounds that can only come from the kind of pain felt deep within a person's soul. And there was no talk....there were no words spoken as none could have conveyed the myriad of emotions contained in that moment. My daughters died. They were silent. They were and would forever be.......still. 
     It took me a year to heal enough to summon the courage to request the medical records of my pregnancy. I wanted them. I wanted---no, I NEEDED them, to hold on to ANYTHING that contained even a piece of my daughters. I took the big yellow envelope out of the mailbox and held it tightly to my chest as if they would somehow hug me back. And then I put it inside "their" box and closed the lid. I never opened it, never removed its contents. Until today. 
      It has been nearly six years since they died. In that six years there has been a plethora of emotions, thoughts and even questions. I have endured the grief and each of its mind-numbing steps. I have suffered through the excruciating physical aspects that come along with the loss of one's children. I am still enduring. I am still suffering. And I always will. But there are two facets to this process that I have never really delved into. Being angry with God for seemingly "allowing" this to happen to me and asking "what if?". 
      Anger toward God for His perceived role in their death would be understandable. It actually is one of those cursed steps in the process of grief. But it never presented itself as a viable option for me. I wasn't angry at Him. I'm still not. I was and am thankful. Thankful for His presence at all times, especially in my loneliest moments. Thankful for His choice to bless me with these tiny lives-even if only temporarily. Thankful He hand picked me to personally deliver two perfect angels, pure and untainted by the sins of this life into His loving arms. Thankful for the knowledge, belief and faith that He did NOT do this TO ME......that He endures my pain with me. Thankful that He carried me until I was able to walk on my own and that He still and always will continue to walk alongside me and hold my hand to guide my steps. 
       And I just never allowed myself to ask "what if"? What if I had subjected myself and my children to the endless barrage of genetic and biophysical testing the doctors and geneticists were trying to cram down my throat due to my "advanced maternal age"? What if I had spent hours thoroughly researching each and every possible thing that could go wrong in an identical twin pregnancy? What if..........
      Would the tests have revealed some malformation or dysfunction that would have led to some sort of life saving treatment? Would it.....could it have saved my daughters? Would my research have yielded some information triggering an "aha" moment which would have caused me to ask the right question of the right doctor at the right time? Could the hours of pouring over medical websites somehow have made it possible for my daughters to be here with me now? What if.........
     The truth is-as I have always known...... no. No testing would have saved them. Research would not have prevented their death. Both would only have succeeded in robbing me of the precious moments I was able to spend with my daughters while they were still alive....inside of me...kicking, breathing, moving and LIVING. Instead of being poked and prodded with needles I watched the movements inside of my growing belly-discovering the developing and unique personalities of these two precious lives. Instead of sitting at a computer I took walks,  read and listened to all kinds of music. And I shared it all with them. I told my daughters how incredibly beautiful the sunset was over the mountains and that I couldn't wait to show it to them. I described the flowers along the park path and told them which ones we would plant together (and pick) when they got older. I taught them nursery rhymes, read them bedtime stories and recited funny anecdotes. I shared my love of music....all kinds..... and learned they were acquiring their own taste in it. We listened together as Chloe seemed to calm to the sounds of Classical while Zoe leaned more towards the beats in Adult Alternative and Folk.  
    And I "introduced" them to their siblings. I told them every amazing aspect of their three sisters and three brothers and how they were already hopelessly in love with them and anxious for their arrival in our daily chaotic lives. No moment was wasted. Every moment was treasured. 
      But something changed recently. Time passed. I now found myself wondering, just a little.....what if? What if I were actually nervously awaiting their first day of kindergarten instead of marking the sixth year since they've been gone? What if? That voice became louder until I could no longer ignore it. And so....I reached into "their box" and pulled out that yellow envelope. I opened it and removed its stack of papers from inside. Terrified of what I might find- it took me an hour to bring myself to read its contents. What if? What if they told me there WAS something I could have done? What if I did something WRONG? What if? 
     The papers didn't say that at all. They didn't say anything. I was pregnant. My daughters died. Period. There were no answers, no reasons, no explanations. The papers offered no revelation into the death of my daughters at all. But they offered something better......something unexpected. They offered a look back...a reflection of every moment of the time they were alive. A glimpse into every precious and brief moment of their short lives. 
     There were weekly ultrasounds. The first one at five weeks to simply confirm a pregnancy-before we knew anything beyond the news that we were in fact pregnant. Another at eight weeks when the confirmation of pregnancy became a confirmation of "them"! There was the scan at about fifteen weeks when "they" became (officially) Chloe Danielle and Zoe Grace. And there was the final scan....the one a week before they died. The last scan that showed my daughters still moving with strong heartbeats playing hide and seek with each other as well as with the scope. With every scan there were notes....lots of notes. Notes that dictated every aspect of their lives.......heart rate, measurements, weight, growth, health and expected dates of delivery. And so....this morning....I read. 
      I read every detail of every moment of the time my daughters were still alive. I poured over each scan as if drinking in , once again-every curve of their tiny bodies and every wrinkle in their faces so that I might never forget what they looked like. And it wasn't painful. I wasn't sad or tearful. It was peaceful and joyful and I felt.....blessed. Blessed to have carried those two tiny lives inside of my body. Blessed to have been given six glorious months of their lives...fully reliant on me for their every need just as I am fully reliant on God for mine. And I always will be-thankful. For them.