Home > Parenting, Personal, Photos, Travel > “The love inside, you take it with you.”

“The love inside, you take it with you.”

Please, please live long enough to meet your grandson.

In the early weeks of my son’s life, I called my mom in tears almost every day. “Crap, Mom, I just went to see another lactation consultant. I can’t make this work!”

My mom treated each of these conversations about breastfeeding as if it was our first conversation on the matter. Each time, she shared anecdotes, recommended research points, and told me she was proud of me for persevering as long as I had.

Each time, I hung up the phone with a smile. Yeah, I can do this thing! Then I’d remember my mom’s failing health and start crying anew. I prayed time and again that she’d live long enough to meet her grandson on Thanksgiving.

Planning my Thanksgiving trip to Eugene was a feat. I had the intellectual capacity of a My Little Pony but had to coordinate a combination of land and air travel for no fewer than three people. All my travel up to that point had involved searchin’ and purchasin’. Nothing more.

When my son was three weeks old, I posted a favor request on Facebook. I asked if any of my Los Angeles friends would mind driving up to Eugene with me if I flew them back down to Los Angeles from there. I was surprised that the first response was from my most recent ex, Nathan. He stated succinctly that it’d be just as easy to fly a Eugene friend down to Los Angeles as to do the opposite.

I loved the thought. I was pretty sure Ba.D. would be down with it, too, but wasn’t sure how to ask the question. “Hey, hon, mind if I spend a day and a half chillin’ with my ex? For budgetary reasons, by the way, we’d have to share a room . . . no problem, right?”

I don’t remember exactly what I asked. I do remember Ba.D.’s unimpressed look when I raised the question. “Why would I mind, Deb?”

A month later, Nathan flew down to Los Angeles and spent a couple days with me, Ba.D. and our newborn son. He was rather taken by Li’l D, and chuckled how it sounded like he was saying, “Yeah! Yeah!” when he cried.

The night before we set out, Nathan watched Li’l D for me and Ba.D. while we got my car checked and ran some errands. Upon our return, Nathan balefully informed us, “His crying? It doesn’t sound like ‘yeah’ anymore.”


I spent the next several hours packing and shuffling things around in the apartment. When I did finally fall asleep, I was too anxious to stay down for long. I shuffled into the living room and boggled to find Ba.D. and Nathan chatting like lifelong buddies.

A few hours later, in the darkness of the moments just before sunrise, Ba.D. and Nathan hugged. Ba.D. said, “Take care of my family.” Nathan said, “I will.” Just like that, our 1,000-mile drive north began.

Over our day and a half on the road, Nathan and I talked about everything under the sun. I remembered exactly why I loved him so much, if that love was no longer romantic. I felt overwhelming gratitude that he remained a part of my life after we broke up.

I dropped him off around lunchtime the day after we left Los Angeles. I sped off toward my sister’s house having conveyed only the tiniest fragment of the thanks in my heart. As I drove, I thought about folks I know who cut exes out of their lives completely and eternally the moment they move from “beau” to “ex.”

Sometimes that’s warranted. Sometimes, though? It’s like cutting off a hand to get rid of a bug bite.

When my mom held my son for the first time, I was blessed to see her smile—truly smile—for the first time in years. Until that moment, I thought I’d never see her smile again.


As I snapped a photo despite her protests (she hated being captured with her wispy cancer patient’s hair), I barely held back tears. And I wondered, why do we willingly let go of love? Why do we categorize it and break it into the kind we want to keep and the kind we can exile to memory?

Whenever I look at this picture, that question resounds through my mind: Why? Why on earth would we create rules that cut ourselves off from love?

Thanks to the kindness of an ex, one who’d known me half my life and knew my mom before schizophrenia claimed the lightness of her, a painful journey northward was marked not only by pain but by love and laughter. When I look at this picture of my mom and my son, I see the totality of all the love I have known in my life.

And I say a quiet thanks. For who knows what the journey might have been, but for the fact Nathan and Ba.D. agreed?

  1. April 20, 2011 at 9:18 am | #1

    Such loveliness. Every part of this story is perfect…from lovers not being intimidated by exes to catching a memory on film. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • April 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm | #2

      Sometimes I forget the abundance of blessings in my life. Writing entries like this remind me how much I have to be grateful for. The comments of beautiful people serve as further reminder. Thank you.

  2. April 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm | #3

    This is such a lovely piece. People laugh when I tell them that I choose my partners by how they relate to their exes, but it’s actually very revealing.

    I also agree that we all need as much love in our lives as possible, from every (healthy) source, and given freely to all. There are few things we can, or should, give as freely as love.

    • April 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm | #4

      It is really revealing, isn’t it? If someone describes an ex as “crazy,” it’s been very hard for me to continue taking them seriously after that. I’ve heard that word so many times re: an ex. If someone allows time to reveal circumstances that made them run screaming from one ex (or even two!), that’s one thing to me. But coming out with “crazy” straight out of the gate fills me with sadness. So much history, boiled down thusly for a virtual stranger? That says a lot more about the person than the ex to me! So, too, do kind words spoken about someone a person used to love romantically.

      Agreed, too, re: healthy sources. I’ve had to cut people out of my life because of their abusive tendencies, physical, emotional or otherwise, and I’ve done so with little regret, knowing that doing so is important for my own health. For people who are healthy, supportive sources of love, I feel like it’s important to be there . . . and to allow them to continue to be there, too. Life is so much more beautiful when all those hands–not some small subset of them–are there to guide us through the darkness.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. April 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm | #5

    what a beautiful story. thanks for sharing it.

    • April 20, 2011 at 8:04 pm | #6

      Thank you for this comment! I was so overwhelmed by emotions that I shook while I wrote this entry, it’s good to know that it’s touched another person somehow.

      It’s funny. I started a blog to “build a platform.” Now I just really enjoy these moments of connection I share with others over the pieces of their lives they’ve shared with me, and their insight into bits of my own life. Platform, schmatform!

  4. Sophie
    April 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm | #7

    “It’s like cutting off a hand to get rid of a bug bite.” — I love this.

    I read the first line to this post and knew I was going to be crying by the end. My mom keeps talking about how she’s at the end of her life; meanwhile I’m thinking, “I’m nowhere near having a child”. You definitely struck a chord here. Thanks for sharing! Now where are my tissues…

    • April 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm | #8

      It’s funny, because I set out to write a very different post. My fingers went to type one thing and those words came out instead. I trembled as I wrote the entire entry, but it felt so good. I love it when writing is a process of discovery. It’s so much the better when other people look in, share their thoughts and help clarify that even more. (Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!)

      I was born on my mom’s 21st birthday, so that was when she started asking me where her grandkids were. We’d argue about the merits of my going down to a street corner with a sign stating I’d marry the first bachelor to stop. (For the record, she found a lot more merit in the idea than I did! Shocker, huh? ;) )

      I hope you have a good long while left with your mom! And that you know that, when that time comes, whether or not she leaves this world with grandkids, she will be so, so glad for you. Grandkids are great, but so, too, are the sort of kids that come one generation sooner. :)

  5. April 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm | #9

    How wonderful for you to have so much love in your life. You must be an incredible person. Glad I found your blog.

    • April 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm | #10

      I don’t feel incredible. I do feel incredibly lucky, though, both for the life I now have and the kindness of the words you just wrote! I can’t wait to read more from you as the days march ever onward . . .

  6. April 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm | #11

    LOVE this. And that is one beautiful picture.

    • April 20, 2011 at 10:15 pm | #12

      Thank you so much for commenting, and with these lovely words! I was so lucky to get to take a few more pictures of my mom and my son. She hated so much that she didn’t look like “her.” I told her that all I saw when I looked at her holding my son was love, a truth that continues to resound a year and a half later.

  7. April 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm | #13

    What a wonderful story, and your baby is beautiful!

  8. April 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm | #15

    This is a beautiful post that made me well up at points. We have a lot in common. I had a rocky start with breastfeeding but ended up lasting two years. And I have the Saggy Boob Trophies to prove it, though they’re not on a shelf. ;-)

    I have also remained friendly with my ex-boyfriends and have a husband who is as non-threatened as yours.

    “Why on earth would we create rules that cut ourselves off from love?” I love that question. I ask myself that all the time.

    Great post!

    • April 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm | #16

      A month in to breastfeeding, I was still pumping several times a day and using nipple shields, despairing I’d ever be able to toss them out. I told myself I’d make it to six months regardless. I didn’t actually believe I’d make it to six months, so I think new-mom me would be shocked to learn I’d not only made it a year past that but that I’d come to love it as well. It was so worth pushing through those starting struggles, future trophies and all. ;)

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experiences!

  9. April 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm | #17

    I actually read this when you first posted and was so teary that I couldn’t post. I’m so happy that your mom was able to meet your son. Your writing is very raw and real. Beautiful, beautiful post and picture! :)

    • April 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm | #18

      Thank you so, so much for coming back and saying so.

      It’s funny, because I started out just intending to say, “It’s silly how we let one type of old friend go!” I only meant to write some light-hearted anecdotes. I got going and found myself shaking with the rawness of memory.

      I toyed with not posting the entry, then asked Ba.D. and Nathan if they had any objections to my doing so . . . principally to ensure I’d carry through with posting it. Anecdotes are fun, but I want to occasionally be a lighthouse, too. I read some entries–like the one you posted today–and feel like I’ve found the truth that will help carry me through the hard times yet to come. If there’s a chance I can be that light for someone else, for even a second, by sharing what’s it my heart, that’s a chance I should take. Even if I’m shaking, and even if it makes me feel so, so vulnerable in the process! It’s from those vulnerable places that we make our truest connections.

  10. April 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm | #19

    I only have one word to describe everything you write about, and the photo of “Love” you posted: Beautiful.

  11. April 23, 2011 at 6:38 am | #21

    This is beautiful, Deb. I don’t even know what else to say…

  12. April 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm | #23

    So glad you have this picture of your mom and little one. Lovely post!

    • April 24, 2011 at 8:19 pm | #24

      Thank you! I’m so glad I have it. It’s one of the few pictures I’ve actually had printed up, so I could put it on my fridge as a magnet. Seeing that smile fills me with hope.

  13. May 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm | #25

    I almost couldn’t read this post tonight because I saw the photo first, and recognized your mother’s hair. My mom had the same hair when she was fighting cancer and there’s an almost exact duplicate of that picture in my house somewhere of her holding my brother’s child. I can barely see the screen because I’m still crying, but I wanted to tell you how beautiful your writing is, and that even though our experiences were so different with some of the things you mention in this piece, I still connect with the feelings you wrote about. I wish that people wouldn’t squander opportunities to love and be loved. I am very moved by what you’ve written here. Thanks for sharing it.

    • May 5, 2011 at 5:53 am | #26

      Thank you so much for these beautiful words, which have in turn made me cry. These tears, though? They’re a good reminder that not all tears are bitter. I am so grateful for the hands and words of others helping to hold me up through that sorrowful goodbye, and in its aftermath.

  14. October 11, 2011 at 5:16 am | #27

    I don’t cry easily, but this picture caught my breath entirely and took me to the edge of tears. Your writing is beautiful, and I fully agree. After a great deal of thought on the topic of why people do stop loving (prompted by one of my exes, actually) I have concluded that it is because it can be so vulnerable and frightening to be open to love. However, the end result in opening to love is so rich and beautiful. I am grateful to be able to continue loving in so many areas of my life. Thanks for writing such a beautiful post.

    • October 11, 2011 at 5:17 am | #28

      (this is Kate from sweet ridge sisters, by the way- there are four of us so I didn’t want to be mistaken for one of the others!)

  1. April 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm | #1
  2. June 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm | #2
  3. July 19, 2011 at 5:13 am | #3

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