I am proud to be a daddy -- and I am a proud of my kids. So, when there's an opportunity to reveal that I have kids, I usually take it:
- "You have kids?! I thought you were like 20!"
- I pretend to understand that they think I look young - but I'm man enough to admit they they're really judging my maturity. No biggie.
- "How old are they?"
-- In a meeting it's like this --
- Them: So Nate, what's your analysis of the situation?
- Me: (chuckle)
- Them: What's so funny?
- Me: You said Urinalysis. LOLz. I shouldn't laugh - it's a bad example to my kids.
- Them: Ha! You have kids?! How many
- Me: I sure do - 4 actually.
- Them: How old are you?
This brings me to the purpose of the post -- as most of you know, today is Linnea's B'day. She would have been 10 - years - old. Whether because my brain preserves itself through selective memory, or am I just "getting old," it now seems a lifetime away when we last held her in our arms. A life without a script to lean on, but has largely defined who I am today... for better or for worse.
Diana and I were only 24 and 25 years old when Linnea passed away. At that age we were faced with many decisions before and after Linnea's death that I will never understand how we made - but I remember making one defiant decision that I am happy to have honored consistently -- I will always include Linnea in the number of kids I have. Numerous are the conversations I've had about my kids, Linnea's death, other people kids, and the death of other children. Endless will the conversations be about coping with the loss of a child. And you know what, that's ok -- in fact, it's more than ok because it gives a grieving parent a purpose that nobody else has a right to fulfill.
To a parent asking how to deal with the loss of her child - asking if the pain will go away -- here was my response:
The pain becomes less intense, but it doesn't go away. I would say that it is different now -- before Linnea passed my life was not defined by the tremendous struggle of my child dying. Now my life is defined by that pain - what I do with that pain is a different story.
For instance, I WILL ALWAYS say I have 4 kids. This inevitably leads to questions like "how old are they" - to which I answer and mention that Linnea passed away at 13mos in 2004. I struggled with this for a while b/c it felt like I was forcing sympathy on myself - but the reality is, I was worried about social comfort - I should not be ashamed that a child of mine has died - it is a fact... as much as the number of living children I have is.
For me - this is a way to "cope," but also is a constant reminder of how proud I am of the life Linnea had - and I continue to talk about what she was like. She is still a part of our family. :)
Happy Birthday, Linnea!!