Looking at a photo of Dad with Chloe, his youngest great-granddaughter, I have to wonder how long he will remember this beautiful little girl — who she is and how he came to be holding her, laughing, in his way-too-comfortable chair. I want to see the ancestors lined up behind them — the farmers, the builders, the upstairs maid, the sea captain who was captured by pirates. They don’t remember either, but that’s ok. That’s our job now.
Last week a friend commented that our “house event” seemed to be going on for a long time and was “pretty life-occupying.” Well, yes. That’s undeniably true. But it’s so much more fun now than it was last summer. In August we couldn’t bring the natural gas line to the house until a mitigation crew dealt with the consequences of our leaking oil tank and filled in a 9-foot-deep pit in the front garden. In the course of “doing the right thing” (much more time-consuming, complex, and expensive than we had imagined) we were declared a toxic waste site and everything ground to a halt. We’re still working with the invisible infrastructure of the house, but now we’re laughing a lot more. The tape around the drain pipes was a temporary fix that allowed us to shower while spending a couple of days repairing decades-old structural damage. We’ve discovered reserves of patience we never knew we had. And we’re making full use of our buckets.
As usual, we left Seattle later than expected and arrived on the Oregon Coast after dark. We bought sandwiches en route and finished them, with glasses of wine, after arriving at our cottage. And this luscious slice of colors greeted us the next morning. It took a minute to find the “other” end of the rainbow, but there it was, a couple of miles to the south, shimmering above Yachats’ modest stretch of ocean. A good beginning, it seemed, for a time of rebalancing.
The good times just kept rolling. The next day we saw two beach weddings and four Buddhist monks. No one seemed to mind the stiff breeze.
And so it went, each day a little better than the one before, proving once again that the best of life is found at the edge.
Some days I’m grateful for the ordinary — a steaming bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, no urgent messages or calls all day, an average number of tasks accomplished, one ingrown nail clipped from a fractious kitty’s paw. Some days that’s enough.
What’s ordinary for a cormorant? How many miles does he fly? How many fish does he eat? How many times does he pause on a log and spread his wings to dry?
Whew! I still think about little Weston about 5 times an hour. At the grocery store I saw a couple with baby-in-stroller and winced, imagining how such a normal, take-it-for-granted, everyday sight is likely to affect Weston’s parents, at least for a while.
But happy energy is stirring in babyland too, and it deserves some ink. Two weeks ago Hadley Simone made her debut after literally years of longing, trying, cajoling, timing, implanting — you get the picture. Not everything went according to plan. She was late in arriving; much to her mother’s dismay, three dramatic drops in fetal heartrate resulted in an emergency C-section (similar in many ways to the initial circumstances of Weston’s birth).
When the new family was back home, Alexis baked uber-loaves of bread, plus rolls, for the nursing mom and new grandmother (who had come from Louisville to help and was accustomed to eating bread with every meal).
Copious amounts of bread were not enough, however, to stave off complications. From the beginning there were problems with nursing. Hadley never seemed to get enough. Instead of gaining a little baby fat in her first week, she lost weight and slept a lot. Sure, it’s great to have a newborn who sleeps through the night, but not if she’s starving…. Hadley was classified as a “failure-to-thrive” child. Finally, someone figured out that she might be allergic to something in the dairy products her mom was eating.
As soon as Mom stopped dairy, Hadley started gaining weight. We’re not sure if she’s yet been classified as “thriving,” but she seems well on her way.
As it happens, this little girl has a grandfather with leftist leanings. We expect his heart was warmed when he saw this photo of his first grandchild in her Nanna’s arms:
Someday Hadley will learn about Weston — about how they both came into the world at about the same time and for no discernible reason she made it and he didn’t. It makes no sense; it isn’t fair; but that’s what happened.
For no rational reason, I love that fist in the air. Others might say it’s just a baby stretching. I choose to believe Hadley is shouting out her support for Weston, assuring us that he will not be forgotten, that the surge of love and support that flowed to his parents during and after his brief life has made our world a better place.
The young couple, first-time parents in Philadelphia, can’t possibly know how many strangers have sobbed – with them, for them – over the past few days. Many of the anonymous sobbers got word via desperate e-mail: “Sorry for mass message … don’t know what to do … these friends … their baby … please pray, send healing vibes, whatever … updates on baby blog.” So we did – all of the above. And compulsively we refreshed our screens, hoping the baby blog would deliver good news – news that the skull fractures and bleeding suffered from a birth gone wrong would heal with no serious consequences.
The blog detailed, in pictures and words, all the pre-birth joy of the pregnancy: sonogram, news it was a boy, baby shower, 36 photos of a nursery lovingly prepared (chartreuse walls, bright striped carpet, carefully chosen pictures, stuffed toys, white crib, even access to a rooftop deck that showcased billowing clouds above the city). But when the update came, the news was not good. The baby had been alert and responsive immediately after his traumatic birth, but the bleeding could not be controlled; his brain registered no activity on EEG.
With sleepless father shuttling between hospitals – mother in one, baby another – these young parents were forced to accept the loss of a child they never knew, a child they loved beyond measure. The child lives on in memory and grief – of family, friends, and countless anonymous sobbers. But he lives in joy as well, his courageous heart beating in another small chest, sharing his parents’ love.
For the past two weeks, Alexis has made bread on Friday. Her first masterpiece was a loaf of challah.
Last week she took on the Tassajarah Bread Book.
This is possibly the best bread I have ever tasted. An hour after the bread came out of the oven, our pregnant friend Erin joined us for dinner and was a little taken aback by how easy it was to eat large quantities of bread before any semblance of a main course appeared. When it was time to REALLY eat, Alexis’s excellent rolls ferried Cafe Flora Curried Lentil and Quinoa Burgers (with tomato chutney) from our plates to our mouths. Erin enthusiastically accepted half a loaf of bread on her way out the door. We froze most of what was left, but raid the freezer each day to feed our new addiction. The big question: What will Alexis bake this Friday?