Finny would have loved this view. Perhaps calling it a view is a bit much. It’s just the street we grew up on, but the sunlight makes it look vibrant in a way that isn’t guaranteed every year, and this year, Finny isn’t here to see it.
I breathe through the ache.
I have to get used to the sight of things that Finny would wish he could see, because I’ll hopefully, probably, be seeing our daughter for the rest of my life.
There is a small hole in her heart.
Sometimes, these holes close on their own before the baby is born.
Sometimes, the hole gets smaller but doesn’t close all the way until the baby’s first birthday or so, but it’s closed enough that it’s not a problem.
And sometimes it is a problem.
Sometimes, babies go to sleep and don’t wake up.
Sometimes, toddlers need surgery to save their tiny hearts.
It’s too soon to know with Finny and my baby what path this will take. The doctor told me that she’s treated women whose fetuses had bigger holes in their hearts than the one in my daughter’s, whose babies are now in high school or college.
For the time being, I’ll have extra ultrasounds to monitor the hole’s size as she grows so that we can plan for whatever it is that she needs. Angie is going to come with me to the next appointment. I’m thinking about asking Brittaney if she wants to come with me to the one after that.
I won’t be able to take these walks much longer, not because I’m getting so big or anything, though I feel huge, but because of the chill in the air.
It’s Thanksgiving, and it isn’t always this cold in St. Louis. Often the roses are still blooming after the leaves have turned, but not this year. This year, the roses completed their lives’ work, bloomed in the time they were given, and accepted their fate.
I pulled a few dead blossoms from my mother’s bushes, tearing them apart and scattering them, talking to the baby quietly as I walked.
I’m taking a break from editing my novel, not because I need to cry, but because I need to think. I feel like Izzy and Aden might need to have more disagreements in order for the reader to feel their love is real. I’ve taken to discussing plot points with the baby, who is, at this moment in time, a very good listener.
“I mean, I am inserting this fight they’re having about the dance,” I explain to her, “except it doesn’t feel natural, little beloved.” I call her by the pet name that came to me one morning when I woke up after a good dream I couldn’t remember.
As for coming up with a real name, that I’m stuck on. I doubt it’s going to come to me in a dream. Mom is anxiously gritting her teeth in impatience. There are so many engraved and embossed, personalized and monogrammed items she’s desperate to buy. It’s a good thing that I’m in charge of the gold card now.
Aunt Angelina is even less help when it comes to names and tells me that she likes every name I float by her, even the ridiculous ones. She likes to tell me the story about how she came up with a long list of names that she liked and that after the baby was born, she read the list to him. She felt that he responded most to being named Phineas and called Finny by family. Sometimes she says he wiggled, sometimes she says he cooed, sometimes it’s both, but she’s adamant that he chose his name.
I haven’t revealed that I know how she got that name for the list, but I will talk about it with her eventually. Right now, I’m relieved that she’s fine with the situation I’ve negotiated with John, the updates and occasional visits that I’ve planned. She and I have both agreed that we’ll be there in case he breaks her heart too.
For the time being, I called John to let him know that the baby is a girl, and I told him about her heart. He babbled a bit about being able to afford the best doctors, and I was surprised by my confidence when I told him that everything was probably going to be just fine.
“She already has so many people watching out for her,” I told him. “If she has a congenital heart defect, then she’s lucky to have good doctors and people who love her.”
Down the block, I see Jack’s car pulling into my driveway. Lately it’s been easier for me and Angelina and Mom to talk to each other about what we need when grieving for Finny, and we all agreed that facing the empty seat at the table was stopping us from discussing Thanksgiving. When Jack showed up to rake our leaves, we asked if he would have two Thanksgiving dinners, but he told us that his house would be overflowing with his brothers and their wives and kids, and he would be happy to spend as much of the day with our family as we wanted. He seemed excited to have an excuse to escape what sounded like a madhouse.
It’s hard to explain why seeing Jack’s face will help, but it will, and I’m looking forward to telling him that the baby is a girl. I’ll have to explain about the hole in her heart and how it’s probably going to be fine, probably, but I’m getting good at that, I think.
I spoke to Jack on the phone yesterday, but I want to tell him those things in person. Besides, the context of the call wasn’t right.
“So…uh,” he said. “I hope telling you this isn’t too weird, but I think you should know before I come to Thanksgiving tomorrow in case it’s a problem for you. Something is happening with Sylvie and me.”
“Something is happening?”
“Well, I had this umbrella of hers, and when I went to return it, something happened,” Jack said. “I think it’s going to keep happening too. I know it’s a really weird situation, but I wanted you to know…in case it was a problem?”
“It’s really not,” I said. “She said, like, one or two rude things to me in high school. So what? It was my fault Finny and I weren’t together, not hers. I’m happy for you, Jack, and I think Finny would be too.”
“Really?” he said. “Because I also wondered if it was wrong in some way?”
I didn’t see anything wrong. I thought it made a sort of sense. I told him that my only concern was that if they became serious, would it be awkward for him to continue to be in the baby’s life? He said that he would talk about it with Sylvie before they became serious. That the baby was important to him too. I felt myself smile. He was taking the possibility of them becoming serious, well, seriously.
I was sort of impressed by Sylvie’s and Jack’s maturity. So I’ve written back to Jamie and Sasha. I told them that they can stop writing and texting to ask for my forgiveness. They have it. I’ve learned that life and hearts are complicated. Even though they have my forgiveness, I explained that I need them to not contact me again. It’s time for me to focus on the future, and because of what happened between us, between them, I need our relationships to be a thing of the past, part of our childhoods, where we made mistakes and survived.
For now, for the beginning of my adult life, I’m surrounding myself with people who carry pieces of Finny with them, like I do. Like Jack does, and Mom and Angelina, and even John. And people who give me good advice and care for me, like Angie and Brittaney.
Jack has seen me approaching and is waiting at the top of the hill. He raises his hand in greeting, and so do I.
I know that there will be days when it feels like there won’t be a future.
But for today, I can feel how Finny is still with me.