The missing name

On the outside we appear like that textbook family of four. A dad, a mom and two active toddlers. We do all activities any normal family would do. We wake up each morning, have breakfast, go to work , cook and clean, feed our kids , send them to school , go to the park when the weather is good, we shop, and resolve tantrums like any other regular family. To an outsider we probably look content and happy. They aren’t aware of our first-born child, who has turned into this beautiful memory residing only in our hearts. They don’t see the gut-wrenching heart-ache and grief that Zoey’s dad and I experience most days. They don’t see the tears hidden behind those smiles. Mostly they don’t see the struggle. The struggle about when to include our dear Zoey and when to leave her out. Is it OK to bring up your deceased child in a conversation with a neighbor you hardly know ? Is it OK to tell someone that I’ve done this before and I know exactly what it means to have a little girl. This is one of the reasons I cringe at the thought of meeting  people that don’t know Zoey and making new friends. I hesitate to reach out. But we live in a society and I have two little boys. I can’t live on an island …. I so wish I could.

So this weekend we got invited to a birthday party in our neighborhood. We have met this family a couple of times, mostly outside playing in the park. We don’t know each other very well and like us, they are also new to the community. So when the invitation came, I felt nice that this sweet neighbor thought to include us in her child’s celebration. I asked Anay if he wanted to go and he seemed excited. So we bought a birthday gift and I asked Anay to write in the birthday card. He wrote his name and his brother’s name, and looked at me and asked “Can I write Zoey’s name ?” My brain just froze. I didn’t know what to tell him. Karthik and I have always talked about Zoey very openly with the boys. The boys include her in everything. They include her in the stories that they spin and narrate. They include her in the pictures they draw. Zoey’s name is always included in cards and gifts sent to our family. So naturally according to my little boy’s logic , why wouldn’t we include her name on this birthday card ? I just wish we adults thought and acted with equal innocence. I didn’t think through, and I completely regret what I did next. I told him he can write Zoey’s name on his favorite Doodle-pro instead of this card. He looked confused but didn’t question my decision, thankfully. We were getting late and so we left for the party.

Later after returning home, I thought about what happened. I felt so guilty ……. If my boy wanted to include his sister in the card why did I stop him. What was I thinking? What was I trying to circumvent ? Yes I didn’t want to get into an awkward conversation about a departed child at a happy kids party. I didn’t want to face that look of dread when they hear about what happened to my Zoey for the very first time. But frankly they probably wouldn’t even notice her name ….I felt miserable for betraying my only baby girl.

I guess I will handle it better next time. I’m learning as well. I’m learning to find a balance in-spite of this struggle. However in the future, if Anay or Hari want to include their lovely Akka in anything I’m not going to stop them. I just hope Anay would continue to include her and this one incident wouldn’t stop him. I sure hope not.

Zoey, I’m sorry my baby girl. For the first time I felt I betrayed you. I’m sorry …. it’s been over 4 years since you left , but your mom is still learning to survive in this world, without you.
Love you to moon and back (as always)

Family of five

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11 thoughts on “The missing name

  1. You can never betray your child. Its only you trying to protect yourself. Because Zoey’s presence and inclusion only means Happiness and you probably did not want to turn it into moment of explanation of why she is physically not present. When you know them better, you probably will open your heart to them.
    No guilty feelings. Yours is always a family of five.
    I admire your strength as you tread along this unknown path.

  2. Love the picture of your family of 5! You have expressed your anguish so well that I can almost imagine you talking with Zoey. As you told Zoey, you are learning to navigate this new world. Zoey will be always proud of you all & help you in her own ways. I wish you & your family continued strength.

  3. Dear Suman and Karthik, please believe in the destiny for the past experiemces in life and learn to live every moment in the present.(KARMA SIDDHANT)
    I love you all including the lovely girl child, Zoey who has a permanent address in our hearts
    Daddy

  4. Hi Suman. Just read your post. Can feel your pain. I don’t know if I have the right to say this but since I am much older let me try. You are a wonderful person and the boys are lucky to have a Mom like you. But they are your family. I don’t know how to say it, it may sound insensitive but you have to let Zoey go wherever Zoey is whether she has merged with the Infinite or if she is a 4 year old. I feel that she has to lead or live without any invisible strings. I’m sorry I hope I haven’t hurt you but your love can only set her free. She had to progress in whatever sphere she is in.

  5. I came across your blog recently, I already read all your blog post multiple times. Every time I read it, tears start flowing. I know everything about your princess Zoey. I learnt so much from Zoey, the best one “you get what you get it dont get upset”. Please keep writing about your Zoey.

  6. Dear Zoey mom,

    I am sure she will understand. You were being
    Nice to your neighbors by not sharing about Zooey on their kids birthday. If only Zoey could talk back to us, she will say ” mom you did the right thing”
    Hugs to you.
    Deepa

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