Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday can go spin

This is not me. This is not normal. This isn't even my "new" normal.

I am so pissed off today that words don't describe it. I am angry. I am enraged.

Why? I just am.

Mrs. Spit is talking about starting to try again later this year. Right now, I have no desire to have children anymore. I lost my son. I will never again see Gabriel, and I am angry.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Trying to escape, and failing

I held a toddler in church today. It was God's sense of humour coming to light when least expected. Mrs. Spit and I went to the early service to try, vainly it turned out, to avoid the mass of kids that are at the second service at our church. While Mrs. Spit was setting up flowers and such prior to the service, a friend walked up to me with her son. This guy is about a year old now. He saw me, his face lit up, and reached out his arms to me - the universal "pick me up" gesture.

I held him, and was fine with that. Until the little guy pulled his best impression of Pepe le Pu - getting himself handed back to mum for a change.

During the service, he and mum were sitting in front of us. Guess who wanted to be picked up by Mrs. Spit and I? So we spent the whole service juggling the kid back and forth. He's really not happy right now as four teeth are coming in. Don't ask what the sermon was about, as I have no clue. I spent that time bouncing a little boy on my knee, trying to keep him happy.

By the time we hit the end of the sermon, I really had had enough. I was getting tired of Pepe, feeling that I had hit a saturation point - unable to take any more. He went back to Mrs. Spit for a while, but the little bugger seems to think I'm the greatest thing around - he kept wanting me to hold him.

I couldn't help but think that I was supposed to be holding my own son. Gabriel would have been three weeks old and surely we would be taking him to church with us. As I sat in the pew, playing games, bouncing Pepe, and thinking about the role of men in raising children, I was deeply saddened that Pepe was not my own son. Sure, I can interact with other people's kids, but they get handed back once the encounter is over. I might hold the juice for a little while, but I didn't get to feed my own son.

I miss Gabriel. I tried to escape children this morning, but I couldn't. I wanted to be able to spend time with Mrs. Spit without them around, but was thwarted by a bigger plan. I am torn right now. Torn between never ever wanting children in my life, because it hurts too much, and wanting to have my own son or daughter to bring up in this world.

As I thought about what men bring to the equation, I thought about how men bring the uncertainty and danger of the world to a child. As I was dipping little Pepe and he was reaching to grab my arm as he felt like he was falling back, I thought about how I was helping to teach him trust, with a touch of excitement. We men like to lift babies in the air, even to toss them up and catch them again. You can see the wave a fear wash over the child, to be chased away by the smile of excitement that the adventure brings to their life.

Today is yet another hard day in a long sequence of hard days. Those damn contractors took a day off yesterday, but they're back today - working on a Sunday... and there's nowhere I can go to escape them.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I've little patience for tardiness

How is it that if I am late to my appointment with my physician, I don't get to see him? Or my dentist, if I'm late there, they give the time to someone else and I get my hand slapped for being late? If I'm chronically late for work, guess what - I can get fired.

You would think with all this incentive for the general populace to be on time, that showing up for something of significance would have people motivated to be on time? For example, let's say that you've gotten an invitation to the swearing in of your Member of Legislative Assembly. The invitation says that the event is scheduled to start at 11:00 am. The Lieutenant Governor of the Province will be in attendance - you may have heard of him, he's the Queen's Representative to the Province? Nice fellow, but I'm sure he's a busy guy and has better things to do than sit around waiting for the spectators to be seated in the gallery of the Provincial Legislature.

So, in good timely fashion, Mrs. Spit and I showed up ahead of the 11:00 am start time. We were seated and sat waiting for things to begin. Of course, you can't have things start until everyone is there... including the spectators I suppose. So we pass 11:05, still people filing into the chamber. 11:10 - we still have people straggling into their seats - good thing we haven't started yet. 11:15 - you have to be kidding, people are STILL making their way to their seats!!!!

In my not so humble opinion, if a timing is presented as the time that things start - then that is the time that people should be at the venue, ready for action. Fashionably late you say? Frickin' rude I say! It's really not hard to show up on time, trust me, it's not. I mean, if they said "the marathon starts at 11:00 am" you're not going to see participants showing up at 11:15, right? Why? Oh, because there's a starting gun!

In my world, people would be on time. They would be considerate for the time and effort that went into planning an event such that the event was ready to go for the start time. Arriving early would be smiled upon. For the cretins that are late? Sorry, we started 5 minutes ago, you're not welcome. I'm not kidding. Lock the doors and shut them out. Or start the car and leave without them. Show up late to class? Guess you miss the information being taught that day. If you can't be bothered to show up on time, why should I be bothered to be considerate back to you?

Sure, there is the other extreme - showing up waaaaay too early. That's a waste of time as well. I should know, I've had people demand it of me in my past, and it just pissed me off to be ready to go, 1/2 hour ahead of the "be ready to go time" and then be forced to literally stand around for that 1/2 hour.

All I ask is that people show up when they are asked to. Things will go as planned and everyone will be happy. If you're an attention hog, well, time for roast pork to be served, because I'm sick and tired of the rude boars of the world.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Distractions are a nasty thing

It’s been almost four months since Gabriel died. Tomorrow will mark another month that I don’t have my son. Another month that I don’t get to take care of my infant boy, to tell him of the life that Mrs. Spit and I have planned for him, to play with him, feed him, change him. Another month that I am a father in mourning the loss of the future life that I was eagerly anticipating.

Some days I feel like I’m doing a good job of re-integrating with life. I keep moving forward and I feel like I am contributing to my home life and to my work life in a positive, “normal” fashion. Then there are the days when I look at the clock and wonder what on earth I just spent hours doing. Days when a work task that should take an hour takes three, and I can’t put a finger on why.

Before Gabriel, I would have times when I could get distracted. There were times when I could go on a mental journey sparked by some stimulus, be it seeing something, hearing something, or remembering something. Not always, but enough. After Gabriel, I find myself much more challenged to focus, to concentrate, or to remember. I make mental notes, and lose the paper I wrote them on. I start a task, and then find some innocuous thing has pulled my attention elsewhere.

Today at work, I was sitting in my office at the end of a task. I was thinking about what I should do next when the sounds of construction pushed themselves into my consciousness and distracted me. It’s frustrating when you are supposed to move into a new office space, and then you have to listen to the sounds of contractors banging away – finishing the building’s exterior and interior finish.

I feel the same way sometimes. I look like the same person on the outside, but on the inside there is a group of contractors from Renovations by Grief banging away. Some days they’re doing quiet work, and I can forget that they are there. Other days they’re busting up walls and messing with the plumbing, and I can’t think of anything other than the renovations. The structural renovations hurt the most, as I feel my foundation shaking. I’m told that, when they are done their work, the contractors will have made me a stronger person for having undergone their presence. The problem is, I was happy with the person that I was before they showed up. I didn't want to change who I am. But now that they've gone and screwed up who I was, there is no way that I can go back.

I just wish that all of the contractors in my life right now would finish their damned banging, pounding, and renovating and let me be me. It’s so bloody frustrating to be so damned distracted all the flaming time!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The joys of home ownership

Some days, it feels like having a house is having a never ending sequence of things to fix.

Yesterday, I went to take a shower. Pretty easy, right? Except when it isn't - like when you turn on the cold water tap and have nothing come out. Now, I like a hot shower, but there are limits!

So I call a plumber I know, and he tells me that it should be pretty easy to take apart the faucet, pull out the cartridge, and get a replacement part from my local supplier. Right. Easy.

A few hours later, with much foul language going through my mind, I gave up. I told Mrs. Spit when she got home that I was about to blow a gasket, and that doesn't count the damage to the tub!

So, it now appears that I might be in the market for a new faucet for my tub. No biggie, right? Did I mention that my tub is an old claw-foot tub? Yeah, it is - and they don't sell faucets for them at Home Depot! A week to order one in from a local plumbing supply store. Nice options available online even! From the states, with shipping...

I'm just glad I can shower at my gym in the mornings! Course, I went and bought flip-flops to wear while doing so. Athlete's foot is NOT my friend!

Friday, April 4, 2008

The joy of office moving

It's a grand feeling. You finally get to start setting up your desk at a new office. Brand new, from the carpet to the ceiling tiles and everything in between. NEW.

How to set up the office to maybe make your working environment a little bit better. Sure, before the move, you functioned just fine. Everything worked and you knew where everything was. But now all that stuff is in boxes and you're like Michelangelo looking at a fresh piece of canvas, what masterpiece will you create.

And then you crack the boxes open and it hits you - it's all the same crap that you just packed up from your old office. If you remember the hyphen in anal-retentive, this is an easy process because everything is as organized in the boxes as it was on your desk before you packed it. If you're like me, it means that you're looking at the same crap in utter disarray, piled into twenty different boxes mocking your ideas of a clean slate.

Time to go for a walk, exercise your legs learning where things are in the new office, go for a breath of fresh air - in other works, procrastination is a wonderful thing. On returning to the rubble that was once your desk at another office, which has not reached a sentient state and put itself into place, another sigh of exasperation hits.

Time to go check email - because, like every self-respecting geek in the universe, the first item to be unpacked and setup was the computer - of course! Put on some music (I chose some of Joe Satriani's older discs that I have in mp3 format on my hard drive - Mrs. Spit's mocking of me aside) and get to work cracking more boxes open.

I didn't think that there was that much open space on my bookshelf. I SWORE that there was way more stuff on it. Right - still 10 boxes to go. But I put all of my books in these boxes! Oh dear...

This office is larger than the cubicle that I left behind at the old office space... so why does the same furniture seem to take up more space? This is truly confounding. I had space for left-over bridge bits at the old desk, but not here. Again, how is this possible in a larger space?!? Right, I don't want to damage the drywall where I used to not worry about the carpet covered cubicle walls.

Did I mention how LONG it took to get moved? Instead of unpacking today, I was supposed to be unpacking five days ago - on Monday morning. But no, we moved into the office to find that the paint wasn't done, baseboard not installed, doors not painted, carpet not installed, phone lines not setup, network plugins not setup... so all week I've been stuck in an empty desk in the middle of a different department, trying to work. Yeah, that's a laugh. All my desk was packed up!!!

I'd go setup on the weekend - except that they didn't give us keys yet either!

Bring on Monday, which will warp me back in time a week so that I can get the office unpacking done and over with and get some real work done!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I hate the house-flipper who screwed up my house

I've been in my house for over three years now. It appears that about 13 years ago, someone bought this house, did a lot of work on it, and sold it in short order - i.e. flipping it.

How do I know 13 years? Because the furnace was 13 years old when it died. Someone bought the cheapest furnace they could, and installed it knowing that the next buyer would go "Oh! New furnace - won't have to worry about that for a long time." When I bought 3 years ago, I thought that having a furnace only 10 years old wasn't so bad, as they are supposed to last 20 years or more.

Sure they are, when they are sized correctly for the house! This furnace gave up and threw in the towel because not only was it cheap, it was undersized for the house. This lead to it working far too hard, far too long, and finally it gave up in disgust.

Now the hot water heater is starting to act up. I'm guessing that it too was installed at the same time, with the same point of view. Maximum profit from minimum investment. Works great for whoever made the money, but as the stooge who is the second person to own the house after that flip, I'm pissed off that someone else's parsimony is going to cost ME money to bring it up to an operating level that is worth more than an ant farting in the desert.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Farewell to Goode

Twenty years ago, I was a young man participating in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Four years of my high school life, I had a second existence as an Air Cadet. It was a heck of a good time. Lots of new experiences, new places, new adventures - and best of all, it was free.

The Commanding Officer of my local Squadron was Captain Bob Goode. He was a good man. Intimidated the heck out of me, as he was a big guy and he could be very intimidating. But he was kind and fair. As I participated in many of the facets of squadron activities, he and his family were a part of the action. You always knew that if they were providing the food, it would be good. No small surprise that they had a catering company called, aptly, Goode Food.

Sadly, this man who was a mentor to many, many people died March 28th. Another good man taken out by cancer. I have left the city of my youth, and I haven't thought of Bob in a long time. But, as one of the hallmarks of growing further into adulthood, I was struck when I learned that this pillar of my youth had fallen. I was glad to learn that he went as he lived, surrounded by those who loved him.

So long Bob - Per Ardua Ad Astra

On sexism and infant loss

This was my first blog entry, as guest posted on Mrs. Spit's blog. It started this whole journey.

A few weeks ago, on reading my darling wife’s blog regarding the reactions (good, bad, and unfortunate) upon her return to the office, I was forced to consider the reaction of my own co-workers on my return to work. In doing so, I am coming to understand that we live with a distinct cultural duplicity in how we deal with men and women when they have lost an infant.

After the loss of my son, I was able to take some time off work. I actually got extra time off work because my office basically shuts down over the week of Christmas to New Year’s Day. It’s a nice element of working for an engineering firm; we generally have nothing super urgent at that time of year. As a result, I was able to stay with my wife while she was at the hospital after we lost Gabe. I was able to take her home and to generally do everything that I could to stand beside her and grieve with her in our loss.

A couple of days after I took her home, several co-workers of mine dropped by our house with a gift basket to offer some consolation. But it wasn’t the usual sort of thing. We hardly talked of Gabriel, or the fact that he was gone. They came to support me, but in the way of men in a woman’s world – i.e. pregnancy – they didn’t know what to say or how to offer their support. “Awkward” would begin to describe it! So we put on a brave face and had some smiles, explained what had happened, and tried to be good hosts in our own kitchen less than a week after Gabe died.

I don’t blame my co-workers, it’s just that they were all men, mostly younger than me. This sort of experience is outside the realm of most people’s lives, so I can understand the obvious feelings of unease that these guys felt. At the same time, I was disappointed that they didn’t know how to offer heartfelt support to a co-worker and friend who had just lost his son.

After I returned to work in the new year, I was further disappointed. I came back to the office with everyone else. The normal banter of office life ensued, yet nobody talked about the elephant in the corner. I had a couple of quiet conversations with a couple of the guys about losing Gabe. That’s it. Since then, with a couple of exceptions, nothing has been said. Nobody seems to care how I am coping, how I am feeling, how I am reintegrating myself with normal life.

Through the grapevine I heard of a horridly insensitive comment made by a guy that I work with. He commented to another that bereavement leave is five days, so how is it that I was allowed to take the ten days between Gabe’s death and the Christmas shutdown off from the office? To put it mildly, this surprised and offended me. Five days? I can see five days being a reasonable amount of time if an elderly aunt who isn’t that close to a person died. But give me a break here. Not only am I suffering from the debilitating loss of my hopes and dreams for my incredibly anticipated son, but I am the primary supporting figure to my wife who just lost the baby that was the center of her universe for the last six months. And for this guy to then have the unmitigated gall to complain about it to another of my co-workers? I could go on, so let’s just finish by saying that my personal opinion of this individual was negatively influenced by this incident.

This leads me to the goal of this journey, the blatant sexism that is exhibited by our civilized society towards the victims of infant loss. My wife was given every resource to help her in her grief. Not only was she required to take time off for maternal leave – a phrase that is ever so bitter in this case – but she was encouraged to take extra time to make sure that she was ready to return to work. As for me, the sperm donor? Why didn’t I make it back to work before Christmas? Truly, the way that some people reacted and interacted with me, you’d think that my sole purpose was the provision of genetic material. Since my wife carried the baby, how could I be attached to the baby that I only felt for less than an hour? While this was never voiced, it’s not hard to read the undercurrents.

The dichotomy of the situation is remarkable. Countless times well-meaning people would ask me “How is your wife doing?” or “How is your wife getting on?” or “We’re thinking of your wife.” Worse were the people who told me that I had to be strong for my wife in this difficult time or that I should support her like a good husband. The number of people who actually appeared to care how I was getting on was minuscule in comparison.

It’s like people just carried over the idea that a man has the easy part of a pregnancy – knock the girl up and then it’s all on her shoulders from then on. This rolled over to how we should be affected by perinatal loss – since I never knew my son, how can I be as affected by his death? Sure, she is in massive amounts of emotional pain at the loss of the son that she felt growing in her – that’s to be expected. It’s a sad fact of our culture that the man is expected to buck up, be strong, and not cry for the premature loss of a child. Is this different for those men who lose children who are 12 months old, 5 years old, 25 years old? I don’t know, as I’ve never been there. But I sure feel sympathy for those men a lot more than I ever used to.

When you look at the literature that is available to parents who have had an infant loss, the stark contrast is even more obvious. The hospital provided a list of publications to assist families who had been through infant loss. We looked into the list. It was horribly out of date and even the magicians at our favourite local book store couldn’t find most of the titles in print. We ended up buying a large selection of books about coping with baby loss. It was frustrating, because of lot of them were poorly done – so says my wife, as I didn’t read a lot of them as they all focused on how the mother in this situation can deal with the loss of her baby. Yes, they ALL focused on the female perspective. There were a couple of chapters sprinkled into the mix for the father’s point of view, but more often than not the effect of the loss on the father was neglected.

My darling wife, knowing that I was hurting as badly as her, went looking for books that dealt with baby loss that were aimed at the father. She was actually successful in the hunt – she found two books. Two. Says something doesn’t it? In my cynical moments, it says to me that in the eyes of society, I don’t matter as much as my wife. To be fair though, it also says that since women are generally much better at verbalizing their emotions and their feelings, people have a much better body of knowledge about how women are affected by the loss of an infant – because they have been much better at putting into words the grief, the sorrow, the heart-wrenching loss that they have undergone.

As men, we have been sold on and have bought into the concept of what men are like as embodied in countless cultural examples such as Clint Eastwood in the early westerns, playing the quiet drifter who doesn’t say much except with his pistols. So when it comes to expressing our grief, we are really bad at verbalizing how we feel. This is a knife that cuts in multiple directions as well. By not my talking about how I felt, my wife didn’t know that I was grieving in a powerful way. When she looked at the behaviours I displayed, I didn’t grieve the same way as her either. So not only am I trying to function in a world that doesn’t think I should be grieving, my wife has taken a long time to realize that I was in pain similar to her own, but that it came out in different ways.

Outside the home, when I was at work, I could see a real change in my productivity. Though I have understanding supervisors, they still don’t see that I’m not the same guy who was employed there a year ago. They expect me to be the same guy who sat at that desk and did that job. They don’t see that I still haven’t clawed my way back to that level of effectiveness yet. Being a conscientious guy, this really bothers me as well. I want to be as productive, I want to contribute as much, and it frustrates me deeply when I am not. All that the world sees is that I haven’t been up to my normal level of performance of late. Being a man means that I am not given the same latitude to come back to speed in my work life. Maybe because I’m not talking about Gabe anymore, they think I’m over it?

Yeah, I’m over it. I’m over it in the same way as a soldier who steps on a mine and loses his leg. As the pain fades, he has to learn to live with the disability. He has to learn how to walk with a prosthesis. After time, he can live a normal life. If he is good, when he wears pants nobody is the wiser that he lost his leg. The thing is, he knows, he mourns, his still wishes that instead of having the $50,000 artificial leg that he could be a whole person. I wish that, instead of taking a trip financed by life insurance, that I could hold my son when he cries and look forward to a life raising him to be the best man that he can be. I don’t know when I’ll feel whole again now that he is gone.

Genesis of something good - I hope

There was a web log. It wasn't the first blog, nor would it be the last, but it was a blog. The blog flowed out of the fingers of the scribe, wandering without form or direction. It wound across the plains, climbed the mountains, and entertained the desire to access the stars. It was a blog.

I find it fitting, as I still sit in memory of the loss of one of my favorite authors, Robert Jordan over six months ago, to start this journey in poor imitation of his writing. I still can't believe that his last book in the Wheel of Time series will be completed by another author. But, the wheel still turns.

Everyone and his dog has a blog these days. At the urging of Mrs. Spit, I've jumped into the throes of blogging with both feet - erm - hands. A place to express myself. I'm terrible at journaling, so maybe this will be a better option for me. I'm sure that it will be as eclectic as its author, so bear with me and let's see where the wind... blog takes us.