Returning the Favor
I have a friend. We’ll call him Mark. Mostly because that’s his name.
Mark and I have been friends since he became a member of my band in 2005. He was only a member for a few months until we kicked him out of the band, which is similar to three people breaking up with one person. Kicking someone out of the band sucks, but Mark never held the grudge, really.
My wife and I even went to his wedding about this time of year in 2009. We often refer to it at the time we conceived RR, since we had a lot of fun (and a LOT of tequila) and RR was conceived shortly thereafter. I was surprised at how small Mark’s side of the wedding party was – he had three groomsmen, three dogs, and his mom and dad. Everyone else was on the bride’s side, which made me even more happy to be standing on his side. Next to his super nice mom who was so happy to see him getting married. She was also so happy that we were there.
We kept in touch after RR was born, and even had a reunion jam with the band last year. He’s an “out of the blue” texter, which suits our friendship fine. Every few months or so, we check in with each other. Then in January of this year, he told me that his mom died suddenly of a heart attack. My heart hurt so much for him, and his small family. He quit his job and nursed his anxiety and pain. Soon after, his wife was pregnant with twins. Soon after that, my mom died, and I looked to him for words of wisdom.
Cry, he said. Don’t bottle things up. Ask for help. Lean on family and friends. Cry some more. And then some more. Mourn out loud. Allow yourself to be overwhelmingly sad. Exercise. Don’t forget to eat. Time heals.
He checked in with me after the months had passed, asking how I was doing, telling me about the progress of his babies (one boy, one girl), and eventually sending me ultrasound pictures and names they picked.
A couple of weeks ago, she gave birth to the kiddos. I don’t know how many weeks she was, but they were preemie enough that they’re still hanging out in the hospital putting on weight. Every other morning, Mark and I talk. How the fuck are you supposed to get the car seats level, he says? He sends me a picture of his botched job. I just want to take them home, he says! He’s angry. He’s impatient and overwhelmed. He wants to know how we managed to not check to make sure RR was breathing every 15 minutes as soon as she got home.
My practical advice is sound – learn how to master the swaddle. Take the car seat to an inspection station if a YouTube tutorial doesn’t help. You’ll be home sooner than you know. My emotional advice is too similar to what he told me when my mom died: Cry, ask for help, lean, be patient, take it one day at a time, time heals.
It’s funny how death and birth affect people similarly. Thy make us overwhelmed with emotion – bursting at the seams and overflowing. They make us cry and forget to eat.
I’m glad he and I are in touch. I’m glad I can return the favor. I still remember how raw I was when RR first came home, and right after my mom died. I think I cried all the tears I have in those moments. I want him to know that he’s not alone. And that it’s hard for everyone. And he’s doing everything right. And to hug his wife so hard, and tell her that the empty feeling in her belly will go away eventually. And it’s OK to be scared shitless. I only wish I could be up there to bake him a lasagna and give him a hug.