No one ever likes to open their mail to a letter from the IRS. I'm not an exception (especially when I know there is not going to be a check!). So, you can imagine my surprise when I found a letter, addressed to me, this afternoon.
Upon opening the letter, I find that they believe our taxes werent filed for 2008. Being the person I am, even though Peter wanted to call tomorrow, I called tonight, waded through the automated prompts, and sat down at the kitchen table to be helped in "4 to 7 minutes".
When the person came on the line, she asked me to verify socials, birthdays, names, and addresses, and then, just to make sure I really am who I am, she needed to ask me some questions about my return. She asked, I answered, and then... THE question.
"How many people were claimed on your 2008 return?"
I felt my breath catch in my throat. I couldnt breathe. As Bobby and Maya giggled in the background while Peter played with them in the living room, I felt my entire heart collapse in my chest. "I don't know..." I managed.
"Just the total," she said politely.
I must have stammered for a few moments before I finally was able to say, "That's a difficult question. I actually don't know. My husband and I lost three children that year." And I began to cry. "I don't know if we filed for 5 or for 2."
Immediately, I heard an intake of breath and she told me that she was sorry. And she apologized for asking a question that was completely related to her task. I felt bad she needed to apologize. And grateful. She asked if I needed some time and, as I tried to breathe and not openly sob into the phone, we were able to ascertain the problem (we filed online and there was an issue with the pin number so they rejected the return and now we have to file it in paper because- get this- the IRS doesnt tell you if your forms are rejected! I'm sure when my pissed offness sets in, I'll blog about this, but for right now...).
I'm stunned. I thought that I had worked through, on some level, my pain. I talk about the children all the time and don't cry. I remember them and hold their hats and their box, and can do so without sobbing. And yet... That innocent question... God, it brought so much to the surface. So much.... So much hurt. So much. Loss. Pure, unadulterated loss.
Three children. Here. And then. NOT here. Gone. My world empty. Five? Or two? Missed from a census, recorded forever on an IRS tax form. The only record of them. Rejected.
Perhaps this wouldnt have hurt so much had it not been July 1st. at 7:45pm. 29 months to the moment that I delivered Nicholas in our lime green, downstairs bathroom. 29 months to the moment that I held his perfect, warm little body as he wiggled and kicked and struggled to live.
29 months to the moment that I became a mother in the most fullness of the word (because I believe you are indeed a parent the moment your child is conceived). 29 months since my world fell apart as it came together.
29 months. So short. So long. A lifetime.
29 months since my sweet, first born son, my husband's namesake, entered this world, and graced it with his beauty and his life for 55 sweet minutes.
And my soul, balmed by the lives and love of Bobby and Maya, was ripped apart for this stranger, who asked, so kindly, if I needed a moment.
I need a lifetime, I think.
And, truly, I'm not sure that even that long would be enough.