Full of questions for my parents and my grandparents

New_York

My parents holding hands. My paternal aunt and paternal grandmother sitting by.

Yesterday, I experienced an enormous sense of loss and this morning I am still enveloped in sadness. I was in the car listening to a podcast about immigrant stories and I wondered, how the process was for my parents. Being Puerto Rican they freely flew into the United States, but how did they feel, being so very poor, getting on a plane for the first time, traveling to a place so far away and so different from rural Puerto Rico, with big buildings, a subway system and a different language to learn?

I could ask my aunts what they felt, but my mom and my grandmother were different from the rest of my aunts. They were brave, they took risks, they were fighters. Plus even if you are traveling in the same plane at the same time, your travel experience is very different than everyone else’s.

Then I went on to wonder how exactly did my parents meet. They were both full of stories, and talked often, and I remember vague details of how they met but I want all the details, and I want them now. I am overwhelmed by this enormous sense of loss. It’s a mix of a cultural loss, given that I too moved to the United States as an adult after being raised in Puerto Rico, but also a personal loss, because I love hearing stories.

My grandmother loved telling stories, I have a couple recorded. But they are not enough, because as I grow older I have different questions. When I was young I wanted to know certain things and that is what I asked. But as a mother of 3 rapidly growing daughters I want to know more. There is so much that photos do not tell me.

I am hoping to be interview some family members, to collect some stories from my parents and grandparents.

It is nice to know that there is a community of people reading my stories and following this process with me. It gives me immense relief to have a place to bring my thoughts and share things that have helped me wrap my head around the concept of loss. It is terrible to feel alone when in grief. You are there, I am here, but there is no need to feel alone.  If you like what you are reading, please click “Like” below. Do you have a friend in grief? consider sharing this site. If you want to chat, leave a comment. Let’s share a virtual hug.

Laura

On loss and perspective

New Memories: Sea of Cortez, Mexico

New Memories: Sea of Cortez, Mexico

As you might already know, we can experience loss and grief under a number of circumstances, from losing a loved one to losing an object. I once read of a woman who had been saving the last shirt her mother wore, wrapped in double bags, because she wanted to preserve her scent. Years after her mom’s death she was packing to move and realized the bags were torn. In her account she shared that she then experienced grief as painful as the one she felt when her mom passed away. To her it was like losing her mom all together and all over again.

This might seem completely irrational to someone who has not experienced deep grief. You could try brushing off this story of despair by saying:  “at least you have other memories of your mom…” “what’s important are those things that you carry in you”…   and other well meaning (and non-consoling) phrases that people tend to regurgitate every time they feel like they need to say something.  I won’t even go into phrases of consolation that are based in the afterlife, in angels and spirits ‘watching over you’, because I could write about the futility of this type of consolation for days…

…  in some roundabout (and disjunct) way, the story above brings me to the recent loss of my iPhone. I usually back up my phone before leaving on any major trip. In this case, I hadn’t backed it up since early fall, so it was full of photos that were very meaningful to me. We were bringing a laptop on this particular trip, so my husband convinced me that it wasn’t necessary for me to back up our iPhones before our trip, we could always do it once we reached our destination.

I lost my cell phone in the airport BEFORE leaving for our trip. I was resentful because I always back it up, but this time I didn’t, and I was devastated because I lost so many recent memories of my children.

I cataloged them in my mind:

  • That amazing photo of my girls enjoying enormous plates of fruit: pineapple, raspberries, blueberries, and oranges… they didn’t know I was snapping photos of them. They were talking to each other, in that amazing way that only a 5 year old and a 2 year old can. I snapped a couple of my 5 year old laughing her head off at the way my little one was eating her raspberries. My little one had raspberries stuck on her finger tips and was being incredibly silly. It might all seem so trivial; kids are silly all the time, but in the case of my household a photo of my oldest daughter laughing with that type of abandon is rare.
  • The photo of my 5 year old, when she lost one of her front teeth and had another scraggly one and looked so quirky and adorable… then that other photo of her when she lost her other front tooth, grinning silly to the camera.
  • The recording of my little two year old reciting the book My Mother is Mine from memory.
  • The photos of my 5 year old helping me make Christmas bead ornaments- concentrated one minute, insanely silly and out of control the next.
  • A video of my 2 year old singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer for the very first time.
  • Photos of the first dance show my 5 year old was able to sit through, her so dressed up and well behaved.
  • The self-portraits we snuck while waiting for How the Grinch Stole Christmas show at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.
  • The photos my 5 year old snapped of us, and of herself.
  • The photo of my 5 year old’s first sleepover…

This all happened in the span of 2 months… we’ve been so busy I hadn’t been able to backup my iPhone, or sync it, or anything… I’ve backed up all of my other many photos, and work files… I even left a hard-drive with a copy of it all in my office, so I could have dual copies at different locations, just in case. I am usually so careful with data, especially digital photos because I value them so much. I felt stupid and irresponsible and angry all at once. I am sure my husband just wanted me to quit fretting about all of the things that I thought I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO DO before leaving on our trip. He was probably worried that I hadn’t gotten enough sleep lately, fretting about all the deadlines and the holidays and the impending trip we were barely prepared for.  He was most likely concerned that I was pushing myself too hard, being 5 months pregnant and averaging 5 hours of sleep a night (3 hours on the night before we left for our trip). I am sure he had the best of intentions, yet I was angry. Why did I listen to him? Why didn’t I just back the damn thing up, even if it meant I would get even less sleep that night before leaving… Then I was angry at myself. Why did I spent so much time doing other things, and not doing the little exercise of syncing my phone with my computer?  My daughters 2 front teeth are all ready growing-in and here I am without a memory of her toothless grin!

Then it hits me:  What is wrong with me? I still have my children. I can’t re-create these memories but I can remember that I lived through them. I was there with my kids when one of them lost her teeth and the other learned how to sing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer for the first time.  How can I be so petty when there are so many parents that have spent this Christmas without their kids? I went back to feeling grief over the Sandy Hook (Newtown, Connecticut) shooting… so many parents were robbed of their children. I can’t imagine being one of those parents, dropping their kids off to school just to find out they would never see them again. Christmas gifts sitting there, under the tree, personalized stockings on the hearth. It’s devastating to even try to fathom it.

I lost an iPhone, and woke up the next day with a feeling of grief. Like I had lost something irreplaceable, like part of my children’s life was lost, just because there weren’t any tangible memories of it. I had that sinking feeling, like I had made a big mistake, like I had been responsible for something terrible… I can’t even begin to wrap my head around the feeling of losing a child, let alone knowing that someone deliberately took that child away from me.

I remember my husband calling me and asking me in a horribly desolate voice if I had heard the news. We talked about it for days, with tears in our eyes. I felt genuine sorrow for those families, I was saddened to the core and wasn’t able to focus on work , baffled by what had happened, feeling that my life as a parent would never be the same, that my kids’ life would never be the same.  I still get affected by the memory of the event.  I value every second with my daughters, I squeeze them a bit harder, I walk into their room in the middle of the night, I stare at them in disbelief of my fortunateness.

I am not sure where I am going with all of this. But somehow losing the photos in my iPhone made me grief those brief fleeting moments that passed and I now have no tangible access to.  At the same time the event made me put in perspective how amazingly fortunate I am to still have my children with me. But all at once it also makes me feel deep respect for those who lose tangible objects that carry emotional value. I never thought I would come undone and need some deep introspection after losing something like some iPhone photos, but I did.