At The River

After I delivered Daffy on Thursday evening, our doctors and nurses repeated that we could stay in our room for as long as we wanted and that we could see Daffy as often as we wanted.  Our room was spacious with a comfortable couch for Danith to sleep on, but the next morning, he was ready for us to leave the hospital.  I was not.  If I were permitted to remain there with my baby in my arms indefinitely, I would have.  I would have given up my privilege to live outside in the real world.  But since staying within the confines of the hospital walls was not an option, I did not bother to argue about leaving.  While Danith left first to pull the car around the front of the hospital, a nurse pushed me out in a wheelchair.  I departed from labor and delivery with only a clear plastic bag that contained my discharged papers and a keepsake box of my daughter’s foot- and handprints and crocheted hearts.

Against the wishes of my mother-in-law, who felt it was too early for me to leave the house (since I had just been in labor), Danith wanted me to get outside for fresh air.  Two days later he said we would go for a walk.  I dug my feet into my tennis shoes, he tied the shoelaces, and we got into the car.  I remember him talking but only a part of me listening.  Nothing in my surrounding — not the front yards, the bend in the sidewalk, or the traffic lights — had changed in the last four days.  My mind was sluggish.  My thoughts were struggling to function in real time, with all the neighbors and drivers on the road with us.  My thoughts wanted to return to the previous Monday night, when our baby was still well and my thoughts couldn’t be any more content with life.

Danith drove us to a walking trail that we hadn’t been on in many years.  The afternoon was clear and bright, but only a few people were out.  Bicyclists.  Runners.  And walkers. They politely smiled as they strolled by, and we reciprocated the same upturn of the lips.  I wondered if they knew our story.  I wondered what tragedy they had just experienced themselves. Danith took my hand and promised me again that we would get Daffy back.  My sluggish mind ramped up.  When?  When?  When can we get Daffy back?

The trail was flanked by new bio-tech buildings and townhouses on one side and a river on the opposite side.  Danith and I stepped onto the grass or into the berry bushes to give bikers room to pass us.  My mind remained slow, and hazy, as I followed Danith’s lead.  I agreed with him that the surrounding foliage was both rustic and manicured.  He suggested that we return in the fall and clandestinely plant an apple tree for Daffy somewhere along the trail.  It was heartening to hear my husband speak about our daughter so readily; at the same time, it was jarring.  Planting a tree in her memory was not something I had pictured us doing.  My thoughts cut through the field in my head, back to the Monday before, less than a week earlier.  They wanted to stay there, where Danith and I had seen ourselves someday building our daughter a swing that would hang from our silver maple and a rope bridge connecting our deck to the silver maple.  Danith found an opening among the trees and entered it.  The dirt path led to the bank of the river, which was not very clean, having no nearby waterfall to feed clean water into it.  Instead, the water was murky.  Danith urged me to climb onto the small rocks with him.  He said that we would be okay.  My eyes traveled the expanse of the river as my mind tried to crawl back to the week before.

We returned to the river a few months later, to honor Daffy’s due date.  I had felt trepidation in the weeks leading up to that day.  In my many, many visions of that day, I had seen Danith holding my hand as I screamed and pushed and I had seen him carrying our daughter to my breasts —  all the stereotypical scenes that are played out in a movie.  None of those scenes would play out for us.  What would happen now on Daffy’s due date?  I told Danith that I wanted the day, her day, to be filled with light and beauty.  That morning, I put curls in my hair, blush on my cheeks, and gloss on my lips.  I even sprayed on perfume.  I asked Danith that we go to lunch and then to the conservatory.  He agreed, but first he wanted us to pick up flowers and go back to the river.  With our grocery store-bouquet of daisies and carnations, we located the same path that led to the water.  I hadn’t been sure of what Danith wanted to do with the flowers, so I watched as he plucked the bulbs off the stems, while speaking sweet words to his baby girl, and threw them into the river.  Then he said to me, “Come, Momma, give these beautiful flowers to our beautiful daughter.”

We go to the river periodically to bring flowers to our Daffy and Kiri.  To speak to them.  To be with them.  We’ve found a new spot not too long ago that we’ve designated as our spot.  It is not along the old walking trail with berry bushes and small dirt paths.  Here, it is an area off a new marina and boardwalk.  The water remains murky.  We sometimes throw into it orange roses, white spider mums, red gerbera daisies, and tiny yellow poms poms.  I speak openly to our children.  I tell them not to ever think that we’ve forgotten them.  I ask Daffy to look after her baby brother, and I ask Kiri to listen to his big sister.  I tell them that I love them.  Over and over, as I throw in a flower, I tell them that I love them.

Last Friday night, after dinner, Danith said that he wanted us to visit the river.  When I said that we would need to stop by the store to buy flowers, he revealed two apples in his hands.  They were fruits he had picked the week before at an orchard.  He had saved a few for Daffy and Kiri.  Except for a couple of lampposts and the lights from the bridge not too far away, the boardwalk was dark.  We found our spot.  Danith retrieved the apples from the pockets of his sweatshirt, and we bit into them.  We spoke love words to our babies as we shared the fruits with them.  Then we set the apples in the water for them. I would have never guessed that going to the river to speak to our children would become our reality.  In my mind, they hear me.