in what i now think of as my former life, i was a rich woman. that’s how one of my exes described me, at least. “you are the richest person i know,” she once said, and i had to agree with her. we weren’t talking about money or possessions, things that to this day mean very little to me…. we were on the subject of friends, and my circle that stretched wide across oceans and ages, languages and life experiences, was something that had always left me feeling particularly fortunate.
these days, when it comes to friends, i am on the verge of bankruptcy. my dear, dear Pen and Spindle are still there, as are one lovely local friend, a handful of imaginary friends from forums and a few other babylost mamas. for the most part, though, i’ve been abandoned by the people i once thought of as my chosen family, and lately i find myself careening between fits of unwieldy anger and crushing bouts of hurt.
in the first few weeks following little sun’s death, Froggy and i were living in a kind of alternate universe, one where kindness and condolences seemed to flow in from everywhere. there were cards from people we’d never met, many of them written by other mothers who had lost children and who were now reaching across the chasm of unfamiliarity to extend words of comfort to the newest members of “the club that no one wants to join.” groups of my imaginary friends got together and sent us money and a gift certificate that allowed us to get several huge meals delivered to us during a time when cooking was impossible. from another group of these friends, we received more money as well as necklaces with little sun’s name and birth date on them and “our little sunshine” written in each of our native languages.
about a week before i went into labor, i’d contacted Jim Loewer, a friend of a friend who is an amazing glassblower, to order a specially-made sun catcher for my little sun. it was meant to be my first gift to my first child. when Jim found out that we’d lost little sun, he refused my payment and sent me the sun catcher anyway. his generosity brought me to tears, and his beautiful orange and yellow creation now graces the room that was supposed to be little sun’s. it is one of several treasured memorials that strangers have made for our little boy. in the days following, little sun’s death, my sweet imaginary friend Seraf and her partner S. put together a care package of handmade goodies for Froggy and me, and it arrived just as everyone else started to disappear.
when the three bouquets of flowers sitting on our dining table had finally dried and dropped all their petals, the cards and contact began to dry up and drop off, too. not one of the people i considered dear friends called me then, and with the exceptions of Pen, Seraf and one other skypeing friend, no one has called me in the seven months three weeks and three days since little sun died. in the early days, i was too lost in my grief to notice or mind. once the shock had worn off, though, all that silence grew unbearably heavy.
about four months after little sun died, emails began to trickle into my inbox. the first one was from someone who’d once offered to be a sperm donor. he and his wife have four kids, one of whom i’d helped name, and i was more than a little surprised to see this man’s name in the sender line after so many months without contact. i expected him to say how sorry he was or that he’d been thinking about us….i expected at least a mention of little sun and the terrible things that had happened. instead, i got five lines of “work is great. the renovations on our house are going great, and oh, the kids are as cute as ever.” i never responded. it was the first of several emails on a similar theme. none of them ever acknowledged that Froggy and i had had a child. not one said they were sorry that we’d lost our child. each of these emails felt glib and overly positive. whenever possible, children and pregnancy were mentioned, and, occasionally, a photo of a smiling baby was attached. no one spoke from the heart, and no one made an effort to tread gently.
there were also friends who started out being present, who wrote to me in the early days and who then would send me an instant message or a short email every month or so and mention little sun. i clung to those missives as if to a life raft. they too, however, slowly vanished, leaving me thrashing and gasping in the violently empty sea of my grief.
there have been so many other disappointments and betrayals…friendships of nearly a quarter century that are now in ruins, bridges that i consider burning but end up abandoning instead. silences that continue despite pleas for contact…
how can i count someone as a friend when they aren’t there for me during (what i hope is) the worst time in my life?
i know that Froggy is worried about me. she sees me crying and hears the anger and incomprehension in my voice. she says she doesn’t want me to become a bitter, but sometimes i wonder if it’s already too late. hardly anyone is left, and that once wide-eyed girl who looked for the good in everyone and who was ready to open her heart to almost anyone appears to be gone, too.
to quote Ani:
“i’m not listening
to you anymore. my head is too sore and my heart’s perforated and i am mired in the marrow of my
“well ain’t that funny?” bone, learning how to be alone and
i’m done waiting, and i’m done hoping.
i give up on you.