Friday, April 26, 2019

Missing One You've Never Met

Preface: I never do this sort of thing.  I write aside from this blog for personal reasons.  Sometimes important topics like faith and family creep in because they're an integral part of my life, but I mostly reserve this space for my hobby.  This one is different.  I just feel the need to get it out there.  So sports fans, I apologize.  This has nothing to do with sports or cards or anything else you might expect to see.


He would be five.  Five years.  Has it really been that long?  One thousand, eight hundred sixty-five days.  I haven’t seen him for 1,864 days since then.  And yet, there have been but few days in which he hasn’t crossed my mind.  April 26, 2014—the day our angel baby was born.

The story really begins the day before.  We had gone in for a routine prenatal doctor’s visit.  At almost 17 weeks, we were getting an ultrasound in hopes of learning the gender of our new little one.  We even brought our two sons—who were five and three—with us.  It was exciting.  They wanted to be there when we learned if they would have a little brother or a little sister.  I don’t remember who the technician was.  I don’t remember what she looked like.  I don’t recall her facial structure or features.  But the concern, growing to anxiety, and finally morphing to panic, showed on her face and burned in my mind as the ultrasound remained still and silent.  The tension seeped into the room.  Kelly’s grip on my hand tightened continuously.  I could feel her breathing picking up as her eyes darted from the screen to the technician to me.  I’m not certain, but I may have been squeezing, too.  “What’s wrong?  What’s wrong?” she asked in a barely controlled strain.  Even the boys started to feel it.  Then the technician stepped out of the room.  I wasn’t long.  It couldn’t have been long.  But the time dragged for a couple of minutes before she returned with the doctor.  It didn’t take the doctor long to confirm.

“I’m sorry.  There’s no heartbeat.”

Miscarriage.  I guess we were aware of the possibility.  Kelly’s own mother had suffered through it multiple times.  But we far along.  Far enough to learn the gender.  I’ve done the research.  Roughly 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester.  By the time you get to 17 weeks, the chances drop to around 1%.  And yet, here we were.  I removed the kids from the room and made some calls.  I don’t remember calling my mother-in-law, but I must have, because she came and picked up the boys.  I called my mother.  I remember how cheery she sounded when she picked up the phone.  It was so difficult to croak, “We lost the baby.”

I stayed in the waiting room while the doctor explained the next steps to my wife.  Typically, a miscarriage involves a procedure called a D&C.  It's more a surgery than anything, sterile, impersonal, and with nothing to see when it was over.  For us, that wasn’t an option.  Because of the late term and the size of the baby, my wife had to deliver.  Still in shock and trying to process the grief, we scheduled an induction and a delivery for the following day.  “Oh, and would you like to know the gender?  It’s a boy.”

We drove home alone, mostly in the silence forced by the choked sobs blocking all other noise from our throats.  About two blocks from the doctor’s office, I choked out, “Benjamin Glen?”  Kelly just nodded.  It’s two family names.  My family has a line of Bens in some form or another, and my grandparents had been disappointed we hadn’t used it.  Now it just seemed appropriate.
We spent the evening with family and tried to prepare for the next day.  How does one prepare, though, to welcome in a life that will never take a breath?  He was born.  He was tiny.  I got to touch the fragile body.  Someone came in and took photos for us.  We got the typical footprints in ink and plaster casts of feet and hands.  In some ways it seemed so normal.  But in the end, that was all.  Counselors came in to talk to my wife.  But it wasn’t going to make things any easier.  And when they left, there was no crying, no cooing, no sleeping in a bassinet next to the bed.  Just a stifling aloneness.

I’m not entirely sure that I got a chance to grieve.  Reality set in pretty hard after that.  You see, the aftermath of a miscarriage is not much different from a birth.  There’s post-partum depression.  There’s caring for the recuperating mother.  And, oh yes, there are bills.  We paid in every possible way for this baby.  Yet there was no baby there for us.  In the midst of it all, I was back at work.  I was running interference from all the people who wanted to talk to my wife.  She didn’t want to talk to anybody.  A friend who understood brought a poem to my attention that helped me process.  Pardon that I don’t cite the source, but I don’t know the author.  “It must be very difficult/to be a man in grief. . . .He dries her tears and comforts her/But ‘stays strong’ for her sake/It must be very difficult/to start each day anew . . . . He lost his baby, too.”

And now, years have passed.  I’ve found some understanding in the difference between grieving one who passes from mortal life and one who never passes into it all.  I would never want to lose one my living children.  I’m not saying my burden is any heavier.  But I do realize a key difference is that I have no memories to hold onto.  No memories at all—except for the pain of loss.  I imagine that I’d be teaching him to play tag and catch.  Maybe he’d be riding his bike and getting ready to take the training wheels off.  But I don’t have these memories of him.  My little boy came and left, and the sting of death is the only memento.  I heard a song recently by one of my favorite bands, Yellowcard, that touched on this very subject and resonated to my core.

You would be ten and I'd be
Driving you to school
You would tell all your friends
That you thought I was cool
You would be out in the sun
Until it was gone
You would be watching Star Wars
With your PJ's on
And you would have
All the love in my heart

I have a ten year-old.  He loves Star Wars.  I have an eight-year old.  I’ve done my best to teach them to play ball.  We’ve laughed and worked together.  There’s a three-year old girl in the house, too.  She’s the light of her daddy’s life.  But I have a five year-old, too.  That one is not with me, but they all have “all the love in my heart.”

Now we have a perfect storm of emotional fallout from the miscarriage.  Today is his fifth birthday.  And we have another boy on the way.  We’re 17 weeks along.  In fact, his due date is almost the same as Benjamin’s.  The similarities and the anniversary are a potent emotional force in combination.  Pregnancy is an amazing, fragile miracle.  Somewhere between 10% and 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, mostly in the first trimester.  So many expectant parents hold their breath for 12 weeks and exhale in relief when the most perilous time has passed.  The thing is, once you have experienced a late-term miscarriage, that apprehension never passes.  I will be nervous until the new little one joins us.

While I’m looking forward, hoping and praying for the safe arrival of another little boy, I’m taking today to commemorate the one who came and left.  Sometimes I pull out those ridiculously small plaster casts.  The hands remind me of the hands on my kids’ Lego people.  The feet are barely the size of the nail on my pinkie finger.  They’re so delicate that I fear the trembling of my hands will rattle them to pieces.  But I take them out.  I remember the past.  I imagine a present and a future.  Five years ago, he entered my life, only to leave it directly.  But he impacted it forever.  He took a little piece of it.  Somewhere out there, I have one more son who is waiting to make things complete.  My faith tells me I will meet him one day, and he will give back that part that is missing.  In the meantime, I'll hold on to the little of him that I have in return.  Across a veil of mortality, we'll be holding each other.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Trying a Sportlots Box

Not too long ago, I placed my first order through Sportlots with their new box shipping method.  In case Sportlots isn't your thing, or you just haven't been up on it, Sportlots has enabled sellers to offer box shipping.  This means sellers can ship all of their orders to a central Sportlots location, where all of your (the customer's) orders can be grouped together in one package and shipped to you all at once.  The idea is that sellers can offer shipping discounts if they can ship to one location, and the customer saves some money.  In practice, I'm not entirely sure that it saved me all that much money in the end.  I can attest that the per seller shipping cost was far less than it has been in the past.  However, the cost to get my box from Sportlots to me was over $10, and that may have negated the savings from the individual sellers.  Truthfully, I don't know.  I didn't pay enough attention to the numbers to say that for sure.  Next time I'll make that comparison.

The impetus for this purchase came from the temptation to pick up a box of 2013 Crown Royale football for cheap, in hopes of finding some Brad Sorensen parallels I needed.  In the end, my better judgment ruled as I realized that I wasn't interested in the rest of the set, so I would be better off just buying the singles I wanted.  The rest of the purchase was the result of me spending the money that I would have spent on the boxes I didn't really want on cards that I selected myself.

This is what the box looked like when it arrived.  The Sportlots people just took all of the individual packages from the sellers and put them in one medium flat rate box.  I was somewhat surprised, not expecting to see everything in its original packaging from the seller.  It's not a bad thing at all, just different from what I expected.

All of you baseball-only people will probably lose interest after this. This is the extent of the baseball buying I did in this order.  All of these are set needs.

Set needs on the football side came in this form.  You know, for a lower-end product like 2016 Panini was meant to be, I've really had a hard time tracking down some of the no-name rookies in the set at a price I am readily willing to pay.  Kenyan Drake was one of the better rookies of the class, and was cheaper than some of the other guys people had for sale.  The Unsung Heroes insert set from Absolute of the same year is one of my favorites and is now almost done.

Yes, I found some Packers I needed.  All of these are from a special Shopko set issued in 1997 following the Pack's Super Bowl victory.  I had heard of the set, but had never owned any of it.  Now I do.  I still always forget that Andre Rison was a part of that team.  I will never grow tired of Desmond Howard cards on the Packers.

As great as Brett Favre was for that team, my favorite Packer of the era was LeRoy Butler.  I'm not sure there has ever been a better blitzing defensive back.  One of these cards is evidence--Butler is sacking Trent Dilfer on his 1997 Stadium Club card.

Butler was a somewhat under-recognized member of the 1990s All-Decade Team.  Mostly because of their positions, these guys were too.  These cards are very 90s.  Skybox Thunder and Topps Gilt Edge (modeled here by Larry Allen and Mark Stepnoski) in particularare uniquely 90s.  I have to say, I don't understand why a set called "Gilt Edge" has some kind of tribal islander theme.  It makes no sense.  And what would the 90s be without an early Bowman's Best and some Pacific (Tony Boselli and Bryant Young)?

 A parallel universe!  Or at least some cards that are parallels.  Check out that mid-oughts Kansas City offensive line.  Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson may have been great running backs in their own right, but having these guys in front of them didn't hurt matters.

Inserts ranging from the mid-90s Stadium Club to last years Panini Unparalleled.  All of these players, with the exception of the Boz, go into my All-Decades collection.  Poor Bosworth.

The order wasn't all 90s love, though.  Here are some stars of the 80s on cards from the late 70s and early 80s.  Gotta love two HOF DBs on one leaders card here.

Progressing through the 80s here.  I may be biased here, but I love the 1989 Score John Anderson.  Anderson is a Packer great who is way underrepresented on cardboard.  The action shot on this card, of Anderson and Tim Harris swallowing up a Bills runner is awesome.

This lone 1980 card may seem important because it includes a picture of Walter Payton.  However, I wanted it for a different reason.  This happens to be the rookie card of one Len Walterscheid, the first Southern Utah State College player to go on to the NFL.  This makes this the first card of any one of my fellow alumni.  Walterscheid wasn't drafted, though.  The first draft pick didn't come until 2013.  Walterscheid's son, Justin, also played for SUU during the time I attended school.  Justin is currently the offensive coordinator at SUU, since 2015.

And, finally, stickers!  I don't actively pursue many stickers, but when I'm trying to round out my collection of 80s era safeties and linemen, they do a great job of filling slots on a page.  From top left: Dave Butz, Kenny Easley, Nolan Cromwell, Brian Hansen, Kenny Easley, Carl Banks, Dwight Stephenson, Dwight Stephenson, and Eric Dickerson.

Speaking of Eric Dickerson, I'll end with three inserts.  I'm pretty Jon will like the first one.  In fact, he may have already shown it on his blog recently.  Maybe?  It's a nice-looking set that I've enjoyed from his COMC purchases, and this is one of a few that I own as well.

In all, the Sportlots box turned out to be a better purchase for me than 2 boxes of Crown Royale.  And what about the Brad Sorensen cards that sparked the purchase?

Yeah, I found a few.