Saturday, January 28, 2012


You might have noticed that I don't always say much about Toby himself. It's not because I don't think of him. I think about him everyday. In "real life" Pete and I talk about him often. We wonder what he would look like now, what he would be doing, and what kind of personality he'd have. I also think a lot about the things that we actually did with him when he was here.

These are not things that I necessarily want to make public.

In the beginning, people didn't seem to want to talk about him. Then, it felt like people were making him "theirs." People kept trying to claim him and we didn't like that. My brother-in-law jumped onto me for not being understanding when my father-in-law told me that Toby's death was my fault. "He'd just lost his grandson!" he said to me. (A grandson he had never met. A grandson he didn't show interest in. Much like the other grandson he has left that he shows no interest in.) I had just lost my son. So I win, right? Whatever.

Others talked about how much they missed him and loved him when they had only briefly met him once. I didn't like that, either. I didn't want to listen to how these friends of mine, who had held him for a few minutes one day, missed him and loved him too. No they didn't. I've met Robbie's son once, a few weeks ago. If, God forbid, something happened to him I wouldn't try to one-up her by telling her how much I missed him and loved him when she is obviously in much more pain.
Pregnant at the literary festival 

Toby was mine. Okay, he was mine, Pete's, Mom's, and Sam's, but he certainly didn't belong to anyone else. Few people showed interest when he was alive. I didn't want to share him after he was dead.

We were very secluded on top of our mountain. Miles from most of civilization we didn't get out much. I could go days without seeing another soul. And I did, sometimes. It was peaceful there. It's no wonder I got a little agoraphobic after he died. That seclusion made him feel even more like ours.

Yet, there are people that I feel incredibly close to who were part of his small life. When he was two weeks old we took him to a writer's retreat. The people there (Keith, Roberta, Leslie, Erin, Jason, Andy, Anne, Kate...) they spent the weekend with him.

with Toby at the writer's retreat

Toby with author Anne Shelby 

Toby and me with author (and friend) Jason Howard

we took his portable bassinett with us

Toby naps while everyone jams and Jason and I talked music
They held him and played with him and talked to him. They spent more time with him than anyone else, outside of my immediate family and Ashley. I feel close to this group of writers because of it. He was our little mascot for the weekend. I was afraid they'd be mad that I brought a baby but he was such a sweet baby. You hardly knew he was there. We passed him around like a doll. When I was pregnant with him I went to the writer's festival and one night Kate and some of the others played "All the Pretty Little Horses" to my stomach as a lullabye. Once he was born and we took him to the retreat we ended the nights with music. "Goodnight Irene" was always the last song everyone played. It was also like a lullabye to him.

I feel close to those people.

I feel close to my cousin Vickie and Uncle Ray and Aunt Fran. We spent the weekend with them, too, in Nashville the week before Toby died.

But's hard for me to let them be a part of Toby sometimes.

Toby and Steve at the retreat
I feel the same way with Iris. We don't take her out as much. To be fair, we don't have the money we did with Toby so we don't get out as much. She has spent a lot of time with Ashley but that's the extent of her getting to know people outside of us. I feel selfish with her.

It's easy for me to write about my feelings regarding his death and SIDS research and how much I miss him. It's harder for me to write about Toby himself.

Toby and Ashley
There are some people I can talk about Toby with easier. Ashley is someone outside of the family that it's easy to talk about Toby with. But we also talk about Jim, too. Ashley was there when we brought Toby home from the hospital. He held him during our yardsale, ate dinner with Toby at his first restaurant, and was the first person I called in the hospital. It was weird when I called Ashley.

I still remember what I said to him. They had just told me that they couldn't save Toby and that he was gone. I was by myself because Mom and Pete hadn't gotten there yet. I called Ashley and said, "Ashley, we're at the hospital in Irvine. Toby died a few minutes ago and I need you to come here and be with Mom." I wasn't even thinking that I might need someone there. He came right over.

one of my favorite pictures-Toby with visionary Kate Larken 
When we named Toby, I was thinking of the movie "Toby Tyler." It's an old Disney movie with the kid from "Old Yeller." About a little boy that joins the circus. I loved that movie growing up. When people asked me about his name I told them about the movie. Nobody seemed to have heard of it. When I took Toby to the retreat, though, and saw Kate she asked me his name and I told her. She told me that her son's name was Toby, too. When I asked her what she had named him after she said, "Toby Tyler..." We both screeched. We bonded.

I feel very close to Kate.

Toby's cord stump fell off while Leslie was holding him. She held him so that Pete and I could unload the suitcases. I feel close to Leslie, too.
Leslie and Toby at the retreat

I know that a lot of people like writing about their babies in their blogs and remembering things about them. I just feel more possessive of mine. Pete keeps a journal and writes letters to Toby in it. I talk to him a lot. But actually sharing him is hard. I feel connected to those who spent time with him at the retreat and in Nashville and I like remembering things with them. It's hard to go beyond that, though. 

With Sam, he met a lot of people. He was in daycare and we had a lot more visitors when he was a baby. A lot of people knew him. With Toby, not to much. I spent a lot of time with him alone. I took him to local restaurants and the wait staff got to know him more than my friends did. Only a handful of my friends met him. Because of that, he kind of felt like mine. I guess in death he still kind of feels that way to me. 


Anonymous said...

I miss him very much and wonder what his personality would be and what he would look like. I watch Sam and Iris and think that Toby should be there in the middle of them playing, too. I love you, Toby.

Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

Thanks for sharing more about Toby. I loved reading about your memories. I understand about being possessive, about him being yours (and your immediate family). There are some people that feel losing Toby is probably one of the saddest things that have happened in their life. Just knowing about him and knowing that he is gone is so sad even if you never got to meet him. They don’t understand what it is like when it is literally a piece of you that has been ripped from your life. You cannot really compare it to anything else and luckily for most they don’t have to know how it feels. If being “selfish” in grief helps, it is every parents / grandparent/ siblings right. The people that matter understand that.

Rebecca said...

(That first comment was from Mom.)

Katie, you're right. I think for some people losing Toby was the worst thing that happened to them. For many, though, his loss has been used as a pawn. They use his loss for attention and other things. That's what makes me angry. I'm getting better at getting rid of those people or at least ignoring them.