Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Window

Dear Ellie,

I often play a little game in my head.  I've been playing it since I was a child.  I'll stop and imagine what I'll be doing at some specific moment in the future.  Sometimes it's a few days ahead or months ahead or years ahead.  And then, when that future moment becomes the present, I'll look back at myself in the past.  It's a peculiar feeling--- that convergence--- when your imagination of the future is filled in with the fleshyness of the present.  At those moments, I feel as though I'm two different people at the same time, and we're staring at each other from across a gulf.  Whenever I look back in this way, it helps remember who I was.  It helps to remind myself not to lose or forget the parts of myself that I value the most.

When your mother and I first came to the hospital late at night almost 4 months ago at 22 weeks of pregnancy, I stopped at a window and looked out.  I wondered what my future would be like, two weeks from then.  Would you be born before viability and die?  Or would we still be waiting, ticking away the days that you remained safe in the womb?  When those two weeks passed, I returned to that same window again.  It was the night after you were born.  I saw my reflection in the window.  It was like peering at some double of myself in the past.  Someone that looked so incredibly different.  The person that was me before he saw your face.  I didn't want to forget that person.  That person that wanted so desperately for you to survive.

The window became a sort of place to continually commune with the past and a future.  I returned to it many times.  One of those times was the night that you nearly suffocated.  That's when I was sure that you were gone.  I looked back at the me that existed the day that you were born.  I wished again to live in that terrible moment of uncertainty.  That moment of immense love and fear when I knew, at least, that you were alive.  I looked into the future, too, trying to imagine a fictitious time when you were still with us.  A future that would turn out to be real, after all.

So here I am today, living in that future.  I look back at the grieving father, and in a way, I feel as though I'm able to comfort him.  To tell him that everything will be fine.  I can feel his relief and joy.  Knowing him in this way makes every day with you filled with relief and joy.  And again, I imagine a time--- a few years in the future--- when the three of us return to the NICU together to show the staff how much you've grown.

At that moment, we'll look into the window together and commune with the people that we were and the people that we will be.

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