Eleanor has asked more questions about Genevieve lately. We were talking about her last week at dinner, and Eleanor said, “It wasn’t worth it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You went through that, and you didn’t get to bring her home,” Eleanor said.
I stumbled through an answer about how much I had learned from Genevieve’s death, and I’ve thought about that conversation ever since. Would I rather give back that whole experience, including my daughter, and be as innocent as I was before? I can’t answer that.
I’m more sympathetic now, at least for people truly deserving of sympathy. I feel a kinship with people who have endured cancer or lost a spouse or parent young, anybody who has gotten the losing end of statistics. On the flip side, I have difficulty being sympathetic about small, passing things.
I suppose I’m more grateful. It’s been so long since I was a “normal” parent that it’s hard to remember how I felt then. How can you measure gratitude anyway? I donate more to charity and spend more time thinking about how I can do meaningful work. I probably complain less than I used to. On the flip side, again, I have a hard time listening to others complain. I have always been bad at small talk and am worse at it now. Yes, the weather is cold. But two of my kids are alive!
The book that my book group selected for this month has a scene with a dead infant. I didn’t know when we picked it, and the scene prevented Greg from sleeping for a few nights. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to read the book.
We’re planning summer vacations, and I’ve already blocked out the middle of July. The 15th is cookouts and beaches and ice cream — smack dab middle of summer. It’s also a week during which, I suspect, I will never again take a vacation.
So it’s easy to imagine that I might prefer a life where I could vacation in the middle of July, where I could read the book or watch the movie and feel only passing sadness at the baby who dies, where I could see the birth announcement and feel joy without the nagging undertow of “Why me?”
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that I wouldn’t trade my younger daughter for all of that. But I didn’t know her. So would I trade those nine months of hope and expectation for a lifetime of not knowing how it feels to lose a child?
I wish I didn’t have to ponder that question.