Why do my children decide to climb on the outside and restricted area of the McDonalds play place? The one building they purposely invite you to explore winding slides, rope bridges and twisting tunnels is still not enough to keep them from eagerly pushing the boundaries.
Amidst the many children who run, jump and scream throughout the play place, I always find it interesting that I am able to identify my child’s call. It could be my youngest crying as he is stuck in a plastic car 15 feet above the ground or my daughter as she runs around avoiding the person that is it. I know the sound of my children.
I thought I knew the sound of my wife.
My wife recently posted a humorous picture on Facebook. The caption read, “I’m not yelling, I’m Italian.” You don’t know how true that statement is, or maybe you do. I’ll never forget my first trip to New York to meet my wife’s family.
I come from a very quiet and rarely full dinner table — no matter what time of the year it happened to be. My extended family (that stay in contact) can be counted on one hand. My first trip to New York to meet la famiglia just happened to be during Christmas. What I didn’t know was this also happened to be the bi-annual turn in which all the family would gather at one location. I thought my first visit to Times Square was all the astonishment I would intake. I was wrong as I stood amazed as clusters of chairs were brought in, extra tables were set up and I listened to the doorbell repeatedly sounding as more and more people filed in — each one happier than the previous, as they exchanged meaningful hugs and kisses for each cheek.
I have to admit, it took me awhile to get the double-cheek-kiss down. I even have a story of one instance that ended in an ill-guided kiss that turned into an unplanned and awkward headbutt with an unsuspecting uncle. I’ll save that for another time.
Talk about culture shock.
As dinner began, multiple conversations trumped over the next. People held full-fledged dialogue without skipping a beat even though they were on opposite sides of the 20-foot long table. Laughter erupted often and it was a sound you not only heard but felt. Most the time I would end up laughing simply because of the sound of laughter, much less the story that was being told.
I love the sound of my wife’s laugh. I never thought there would be a day that I would forget what it sounded like — but I did.
As I walked through the doors of the doctor’s office, the brisk feeling of silence was overwhelming. As if everyone had collectively decided to mute themselves, all I heard was my own heart beat and footsteps as I searched for my wife who had gone back to set the delivery date.
I turned the final corner as I trailed the nurse who had called me back. I stepped into the hallway and I heard a sound that had never entered my ears before. A wailing that still sends shivers down my spin when I recall its emptiness. I had no point of reference or way to identify what or where the sound was coming from. For a moment it didn’t even sound like a human.
The sounds of grief are some of the most horrifying noises to ever enter my ears.
The sobs grew louder and heavier as I finally made my way to the small room. The nurse opened the door and I stood dumbfounded to realize that my wife, my beautiful wife whose laugh could stop a rainstorm, whose voice could sooth a heartache and whose whisper could instantly fill me with significance, was broken. I heard her brokenness for the first time in my life. I never want to hear it again.
Only one week from delivery, Bella’s heart suddenly stopped. She was gone. So were the smiles. So was the laughter. So was the hope that my wife would ever do either again.
It didn’t take me long to begin to wonder if I would ever have the wife I knew for the past eleven years, back. I pressed the worry further as I began to wonder if I would ever see her smile again. Would I ever hear her laugh again? Would it be possible to ever have a happy moment after this unbearable tragedy had landed in the middle of our lives?
As her husband, I felt I had lost a part of her. I instantly began to think of ways to regain the woman I knew before that Friday morning. I paced myself. I shelved my usually playful and joking personality to try to fill a new role that I had never rehearsed for — maturity minus the sarcasm. It was quite the feat. The first couple of days told me that things would not be the same ever again. The extent? Of that, I was still unsure.
Just over two years later, I can say that I have heard my wife laugh. She has returned to the woman that she was before our loss — for the most part. Like before, she will break into a dance when a song comes on, she will playfully wrestle with me before bed and she will tell a joke that she laughs at harder than her audience, yet there is still a haze that clouds these moments.
Things are not the same. Each day we strive closer to rebuilding what was immediately tore down, but the cloud of grief has left its scar, left its mark, left its reminder. I have tried to use that reminder as a measure of where we have come from to where we are. Accepting that my wife would not be the same is not always easy but it is something I am learning to adjust to, live with and grow through. Her allowing me that time, I must say, shes perfected.