Angels in the Costco

On January 4 of this year we lost a child, a daughter. It was a shock but I didn’t give myself permission or time to grieve as the children were still on their winter break and didn’t realize something was amiss. Our youngest still had his therapies, the boys still liked to eat every twenty-three minutes (or so it feels), diapers still had to be changed, stories read, laundry folded, etc. The following week school resumed and so did my volunteering. I pushed it out of my mind (ha), telling myself it was “for the best” so I could focus my waning energy on the boys and on creating a miracle for the Little Angel.

As time has gone on, though, I feel her absence, and at times I’ll feel it acutely.

When our youngest underwent his catastrophic regression from October – December 2009, there was no time for sadness either. I was frantic, desperately trying to find someone to help him, to make him better. We traveled first the country and then the world to get our answer, and on December 10, 2010 he received his diagnosis. But there was no fix. I then started to shut down with sadness.

The people around were bored by this point – it’d been going on for over a year, and people do not want to be reminded that sometimes horrible things happen out of the blue, through no fault of their own. They want to wear their “everything’s fine” blinders, plus people’s tolerance for others’ sadness seems to be rather short-lived. I get it. We’re all incredibly selfish. None of those around us in this town were especially close friends – how could we be? We’d only known each other a few years, so their disentanglement from our lives also made sense: they either had to be majuscule ‘i-n’ IN or out. There wasn’t enough inducement for them to be IN, and I didn’t, still don’t care about them enough to fight for them. As my husband is wont to say “go ahead and do in a year what we do in a day and then get back to us.” Sometimes he is filled with vinegar and it makes me love him more.

In April I started to see a grief counselor to get a handle on my anger, anger at the world for this shitty hand our Little Angel (and we) was dealt, anger at the idiots around us who make stupid, heartless, occasionally mean-spirited comments, anger at myself for somehow not divining both the Little Angel’s neurological disorder and also somehow not saving our baby, even though neither were my fault. Logically, rationally I know I could control neither, but feelings are illogical and most definitely irrational, so I have a heavy, guilty, very sad heart.

My therapist asked me to think about what makes me happy, where can I find joy. Riding on the bicycle path last week made me happy.

A clean house makes me happy.

Listening to Squeeze’s Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti makes me happy.


Sitting under the honey locust tree in the garden by myself with an iced tea, reading but really looking around at the flowers and the bees, hearing distant sounds of summer makes me happy.

Fuchsia dahlias make me happy.


Singing along voce piena with Fiddler on the Roof makes me happy.

Big jewelry makes me happy.


This artwork, Untitled by Adam Parker Smith, makes me happy.


Strangers who see the magic in my Little Angel make me happy.

I’m a stay-at-home mother so I’ve never been able to justify the expense of having someone clean, but at the rate I’m not cleaning our house and at the rate my sadness is compounding I’ve come to realize I can’t not afford to have help. So like providence, a neighbor recently highly recommended a cleaning lady so I’m off to the races. Before she’s even cleaned our house for the first time I already feel better doing something proactive, giving myself permission to do this for my psychic health.

I wrote Adam Parker Smith, the artist, and told him what pleasure his artwork brings me, and he responded with an email which may have made me even happier. Sometimes I simply cannot believe how much goodness I receive. Because of this connection his art brings me even greater joy. Adam is an angel.

I prefer not to take the Little Angel grocery shopping with me because he is too big to now fit in the cart (he is the perfect size for a seven year-old, so this is GREAT that he is growing apace!), but he is unable to safely and appropriately walk alongside the cart. He’s a runner (as in run away) and has no awareness of others around him, so he’ll walk right into a cart or another person. But this day he was with me. We were at the check-out and I was in the process of paying.

The Little Angel is a hardcore snuggler. He loves and lives to cuddle, to burrow his face into soft squishy parts of people’s bodies. He clearly wanted me to pick him up for a cuddle, so I explained to him that I couldn’t. It is unlikely he understood my words but he clearly understood that I was not picking him up, so he turned around and pressed right into the stomach of the woman queuing behind us. I apologized, explaining “he’s desperate for a cuddle.” The woman, who was maybe in her 60s, was clearly moved and said in a whisper “thank you.” She wrapped her arms around him. Her husband came out from behind her with his arms spread wide, announcing “I’m available, too!”

We met two angels at the Costco. I’ll remember them always. Even when I am furious with the world (or the Aquatic Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator, as I am today) or deep in my pit of sadness, I think of that couple, of my other True Happy makers, and I can feel deep inside me a flicker of joy. I need them.

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