The Rest of the Story

This month’s issue of O, The Oprah Magazine had a small section on creativity. One of the suggested activities was to pull out a photo and write the “real” caption. What had happened right before, or right after, the photo was taken.

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but you don’t always know what words it is trying to tell you.

Two years ago, when I was pregnant, I wanted a Frosty. Going out to get ice cream always bugged me when I was pregnant. We went to Dairy Queen a lot, solely because there was a Dairy Queen in town, and once we returned to Juneau, we’d never get the chance again. And, I could eat anything I wanted, so I might as well indulge in the things I wouldn’t normally eat. But I hated it, especially when the temperature was -10, because I looked like the big old fat pregnant woman craving an ice cream, when really I was the big fat woman pregnant with triplets who needed to eat 2,000 more calories to grow her gluttonous babies, and an Oreo cheesecake blizzard seemed the way to do it.

But this one day, we were out, and close to Wendy’s, and I said, “Let’s go get a Frosty.”

So we went, and since it was around 4 David got a hamburger and fries and called it dinner. Sitting there, he suddenly held up his Frosty and said, “Take a picture for my Facebook page.” Which was shocking because he rarely went on Facebook, and was somewhat squeamish about having his photo on there (he had forbidden me to upload any of his photos on to my page).

But he wanted me to take his photo, and I obliged, because at the moment his photo was my pregnant belly, which I thought was kind of creepy.

So I pulled out my Blackberry and snapped this:

Looking at it, you’d think it was just a guy being stupid in Wendy’s, thinking a photo of him and his Frosty would make a good profile picture.

What the photo doesn’t tell you, is that it was taken on February 15, 2009. Less than 16 hours later, we’d find out that our daughter was dead.

Less than 24 hours after that, our surviving daughters would be born, 10 weeks premature, and be whisked off to the NICU, where’d they stay for the next 6 and 8 weeks.

I saved this photo on my Blackberry until my very last day of work. The day before service was cut off, I e-mailed it to myself, where it’s sat on our computer for the past year. It is a stupid, semi-blurry photo of my husband holding a chocolate Frosty – a Frosty that I don’t even think he was able to finish, and that I couldn’t even finish because, at exactly 30 weeks pregnant, I was the size of somebody four weeks past due, and my stomach could barely hold its own Frosty, let alone David’s half-eaten one.

But I’ve saved this photo, unable to delete it, because David’s eyes show no trace of the pain we were about to experience the next morning, no knowledge that the pain and loss we had been bracing for during the past 15 weeks was about to become real, and at least 1,000 times worse than we had ever imagined it could be. His smile shows no evidence of the grief that we would be trying to navigate over the next few months, years – our whole lives, I am guessing – or  how we would struggle to balance that grief against the joy of our living children, and against the trials of raising two children, one who would eventually be diagnosed with cerebral palsy and who, two days shy of her 2nd birthday, would be able to sit up without our help only if surrounded by two Boppy pillows and a Pillow Pet.

That’s the story that photo is trying to tell.

But if you drown out its words, all you see is a silly photo of my husband holding a Frosty. And I’ve kept it – and likely will keep it – because I like to look at it and remember what it was like to be so unaware of what was to come, and wish that we still so stupid.

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