We All Lose Things

Two Thursdays ago, the night before she went in for her C-section, my sister Sarah called me to say goodbye.

“You know, in case I die tomorrow,” she said.

“Don't die, Sarah!” I instructed her sternly.

“Thank you!” she exclaimed. “You're the first person who's said that!”

“That's because everyone else sucks,” I gently explained.

With my little niecelets a whopping week old, I made it this weekend out to Surprise, Arizona, with my buttercup of a son and Commie Mom, to get a gander. Sadie was all Jewy and dark and squished and lopsided like Shannen Doherty from hanging out upside-down on Sarah's cervix for the past three months (each contraction massaging her head into a Nefertiti oblong), while Sabrina was a delicate WASPy rosebud who had spent her gestation reclining peacefully with her head on one kidney and her feet on the other.

By the time Sarah popped them out, she really could have kicked it. Her system was going toxic from her organs shutting down thanks to two—two!—babies stomping on them with all their 19 inches each, and she had a terrifying edema that had swollen her entire body until her feet looked like loaves of Roman Meal. Nor could you see that she'd once owned knees.

It was way more than a hundred degrees in Surprise, the pretty city to which I told my sister not to move when she'd be seven months pregnant with twins. In July. In Arizona. Where every restaurant's a chain—does a restaurant really need to be the size of a Home Depot?—and everything looks like Mission Viejo. Where the town that had 10,000 people 10 years ago has 100,000 today. Where new tracts are being built scores at a time, houses built to within inches of one another. Where people are buying those homes with interest-only loans, and where the people are stupid and she didn't know anybody and she'd be housebound and crazy and pregnant with twins in July in Arizona.

She and her husband did it anyway (I blame her husband). But despite all that, I have to say: the town's xeriscaping is amazing, vivid desert flowers blooming like fire and mesquite trees lacy and green in the stifling air.

And thank the good lord, my sister didn't die.

Of course, she still might die of boredom.

* * *

I had envisioned my sister dying in childbirth even before she called to tell me goodbye. It would be just like her, and then I'd have to take in her twins, and how the hell would I raise two more babies all on my own?

I was feeling, as usual, quite sorry for me.

And here's a little secret: I like to imagine the deaths of people I love, and I do it all the time. Like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, it helps me have a nice little cry. I envision the moment I hear the news; I imagine my screaming and shaking and martyrdom. I feel the seismic magnitude of my bereftness, everything around me as still as the Arizona air. This works best when envisioning the death of my child, though usually I feel guilty about that and substitute a maiming or horrible brain damage, when he's not escaping harm through my lioness-like mother's love and I get shot in the face in his stead.

It's all very cinematic. And it ain't even close.

Last week, Rush Limbaugh said of Cindy Sheehan, “I'm weary of even having to express sympathy. We all . . . We all lose things.” It's true. I lost a stuffed animal on Amtrak in Kansas when I was six, and I totally still remember that. I also lost a bet against my son this weekend when I said Knoxville was the capital of Tennessee. I lose my keys pretty often (my boy always helps me find them), and at least twice I've lost my wallet (what a godforsaken ass-pain that is!), and I lost my virginity when I was 16. I've definitely lost a boyfriend or two who didn't know that by law no one's ever allowed to leave me(whether or not I'd told them to) and who need to man up and give me a call (whether or not that's a good idea). And of course Rush Limbaugh's lost his mind.

What a waste it is to lose one's mind, indeed.

* * *

I haven't lost a child, but the details are all worked out if I ever should. I did watch my mom lose my older brother, though, when he was 21. She was a mess for years and years, and even now, 15 years on, she probably just keeps it hidden. I know she thinks about him all the time. I remember being embarrassed for her when she was standing in my dad and stepmom's kitchen, talking at my stepmom's parents about her beautiful son. I saw their sympathy as they listened, but I figured they were mortified, and I wished she would just stop.

For anybody who says the Left is “grief-pimping,” they should take their heads out of their asses: Cindy Sheehan is holding up amazingly, and it's because—unlike the president—she's actually got a noble cause.

I've seen some terrible quotes this week, and a lot of them are from persnickety Dems such as Marc Cooper and Mickey Kausand the DLC, for whom nothing's ever good enough, distancing themselves from this one-woman force. (Since it's off-topic, I'll save the quote from televangelist Pat Robertson, saying we should assassinate Hugo Chavez to keep Venezuela's oil supplies at the ready, for another column; I also won't make fun of anything written in The Orange County Register's spanking-new weekly, SqueezeOC, since my boss says it would just be cruel.) They don't like the people flocking to her; they don't like the apocryphal statements she never made; hell, the DLC—the Democratic Leadership Council!—doesn't like that, like more than half of America now, the woman is against the war.

We all lose things. [Cruel SqueezeOCjoke omitted here.] What are we going to find in their place?


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