Sunday, March 15, 2015

Five Year Check-In

That's how long it's been since we boarded that one-way airplane back to the States from our six months in Germany. We were headed back to a new state, about to sign the contract to our new home, buy a new car and get pregnant with a (new, first) baby. We were excited. I was so ready to embrace the change of moving more than 5 miles from the beach (that's how far, or less, I lived my entire life thus far). I was looking forward to meeting new friends and having kids and exploring the land together as a family.

And then Andrew died.

The husband calls me a pessimist. He says I wasn't always one, but crossed over from realist to slightly pessimistic after Andrew died. He's right.

My sister-in-law quickly corrected me when I said something to the likes of, "I secretly don't love living here." She told me outright, "It's not a secret, Brandy. Everybody knows." It's not that I hate it, but I can surely name off a few handfuls of places I'd rather be. But in all honestly, I think much of that stems from the biggest tragedy and failure in my life happening within 9 months of me planting my feet on the ground here in the Midwest. 

It's just... it stings. Every memory we have made here involved Andrew in some way. I became pregnant two weeks after we touched down on U.S. soil, here in Illinois. We had just closed on our house and were hoping we'd have more exciting news to share, and did! I actually remember my mom commenting to us after we told her we were moving to the Midwest from California that she hated that we were moving and we would probably have grandkids right away, to her dismay. And we did-- never intentionally trying to hurt anyone, but carrying on with our marriage and life as mid-late 20s was flowing through our blood and we had careers and a home and a great marriage. It was time. 

It was basically the perfect timeline. Unfortunately, I've lived here over 4 times the amount of time with him dead than he was alive. Hurts.

I remember the walls closing in on me after he died. We have four bedrooms upstairs, 2 bathrooms and an attached office. Among the three floors, we have over 3900 square feet of living space and I felt I was being suffocated by the enormity of the space. We closed the doors to the three additional bedrooms and bathroom upstairs. No natural light flowed in. The space felt so big and I felt so small. I hated the house we were so excited about and spent those 9 months of my pregnancy preparing for our growing family. 

We bought this home with the sole intention of raising kids here. If we never hoped kids were in our future, we would probably be living in a fun loft downtown. Somewhere more chic, less kid-friendly and definitely not residing at the corner lot house with the bus stop on our property. I loathed the buses that drove by after he died. I hated seeing kids get off and go into their houses-- houses that were filled with their well-used toys and things and beds that were slept in. 

So yeah. Chicago is kind of a B-list city for me. It's truly a beautiful city (but we live in the 'burbs, y'all, and the lack of scenery is kind of nonsense). It's just, the worst of times happened here so suddenly, muddling some of the beauty it could've been. Thank goodness for great friends, decent food and rainbow babies. Five years is turning out a whole heck of a lot better than the end of year one. Without a doubt. And those doors upstairs? Well, I can't keep them closed if I tried. We have a three-year-old who just loves making it known that he LIVES here. 

Makes me always wonder what living here would've been like (to my psyche) if he didn't die. If our perfect world remained pretty darn perfect for a little while longer. You know, despite the fact that there are no mountains here (our very favorite). 


Brooke said... [Reply to comment]

I think I said this to you when I visited, but your neighborhood is SO kid friendly that I can imagine how crushing it would be to lose a baby in a place that seems to revolve around families raising kids. I think it's understandable that Andrew's death tainted that for you, and although I hope and expect that the fun times in that house will outweigh the bad in quantity, it's hard to imagine what level of "good" could ever make up for what you've lost. Nothing will ever fill Andrew's space, and I imagine you'll feel a bit of a sense of relief, as well as loss, when you guys eventually sell that place and move on. I think LJ and I both experienced that when we moved. Places hold records of our pasts, and there's a whole lot of bitter wrapped up in our sweet.

For the record, though, I think Chicago winters would be pretty hard on a California girl, dead baby or no.

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

Exactly five years ago, we traded birth control for ovulation tests.
We never intended to be in the Midwest this long. Our five year plan was to move west. That was nine years ago. I love our lifestyle, i love the nearby nature, I love my family, I don't love the midwest.

Laura Jane said... [Reply to comment]

Great post

I think about this all the time. Scott and I will have experienced a great moment with the girls and he will look at me and say, "life would be just that much better if Jack were here". Like can you imagine? A big brother to these girls? A big brother for Benjamin and Claire? CAN YOU IMAGINE? And of course he/they should be here and that's why these houses felt uncomfortable every day after they died. Because the silence was so much louder… Because the only cries echoing through it were our own.

Today we went to a birthday party for G's bestie. There was both a Jack and an Andrew there. They were six and five maybe? Hearing those names being said out loud made my heart hurt. Because as we climbed up the play centre steps behind them I couldn't help but think how much fun it would be for the big brother to lead his little sister to the tippy top of the big slide.

I'm ranting. lol.

Love you and love your babies <3

Veronica said... [Reply to comment]

I can relate to so many extents. And wow, I just read Laura's response and the point about the silence being so much louder because the only cries heard were our own. Damn. So damn true.

I don't love this house or this new area we bought into ...and it's because Alexander died. So often after he died, I just wanted to head north. Go back to an area of the city I was familiar with and had lived in for years. Downtown felt too busy and young and unforgiving. But to go back to my condo and curl up and ignore the world...? That sounded like just about the only thing that could minimize the ache. But too late. We bought this place and readied it for a baby and jumped in with 2 feet and there was no going back. I still want to move...but I'm having trouble with finding my direction and figuring out what it is exactly that will make me happy. But it's not this house, that's for sure.

Really good post brandy. Hit my heart in that good bad way that's needed every now and again xo

LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

I remember that uncomfortable feeling in the house after coming home from the hospital. All the baby-plans and ideas for your home and neighborhood are just GONE. And I hadn't even bought a crib or painted a nursery yet..

I can't imagine staying in that house (which was actually a chic apartment in DC) but I imagine going to from hope and joy to loss and pain must have been all the more difficult within the walls where it all started. No escape and no fresh start (not that those exist anyway.)

Regarding the Midwest. We grew up here and I can attest to its MAJOR suckage. After college, we had the choice to relocate to DC or SoCal and (God knows why) we chose DC, which seemed freaking CURSED from the moment we arrived at our apartment. I think it's difficult not to resent a place that seems to host your first real life tragedy. Unless maybe it's your true home? I'm not sure, but I understand what you mean. Aside from the frigid weather and boring landscape, it's where you lost your son. I think that may make it more difficult to feel like home. Sorry for the LONG comment! Great post!

A Few Good Eggs said... [Reply to comment]

I love this post. I still love where we live, but I think a lot about how things were supposed to be in the house we currently live in and living in this neighborhood (where there are families everywhere), was absolute torture before we had B. Thanks for verbalizing something I couldn't!