Vivianna Week, Day Twelve: My Daughters Catrina & Vivianna
When I first decided to do a memorial for my daughter Vivianna, I wasn’t really expecting that one week tribute to turn into two. I’m glad that it did because over the past two weeks I have been able to see the different forms of love and family and it has filled me with such a joy that I know Vivianna was sufficiently honored. Losing Vivianna so shortly after losing Christopher, I never thought I would, nor did I ever want to, have any more children. The grief and the heartache was just too much. The hardest thing was the people that I expected to be there for me, family and friends alike, had disappeared into thin air. I had Angel, Justin and Ryan and they were very much my family, but that was it. Grief and death, sad moments, and moments of what my Granny Mary called “trial by fire” really helps you to see exactly who is in your corner as you fight the fight of life.
That next year, after having the doctor tell me that it seemed as if my body was not equipped to carry a child (now I can totally say “duh” to that), I went home to soak in the garden tub in my new home and cry over the fact that it was official. I was defective, flawed, my body rejected babies, contracting rather than expanding to allow the zygote to become a fetus and the fetus to become a baby to be born. I got a phone call from Sarah, a friend of mine at the time, and she told me about Catrina, a young lady who was 11 at the time, who needed a place to stay.
I won’t go into detail about why Catrina needed a place to stay, that’s not my story to tell, but Sarah said to me, “She really only needs a place for like two weeks maybe, but she needs you.” When I told Sarah yes and then told her about what the doctor said she told me that this was God at work. He was giving me a child after the doctor told me that I wouldn’t have one.
I knew Catrina through Sarah and had always been drawn to the young girl. I wanted to see her smile and hear her laugh (she sounds like a Chipmunk when she laughs and talks), and protect her, because you could look at Catrina and see that she had a heartbreaking story to tell.
Catrina came to stay with me and when two weeks turned into me getting guardianship of her (at 23), I got the chance to be a parent and she got the chance to have a real parent that loved her and took care of her, etc. It was, for us, the perfect set-up.
I learned about disciplining a child, the worry that comes when they’re not in your sight, I found out that I was the overprotective parent who looks at everyone who looks at my child as a suspect, until proven innocent. I also found out that I could be the fun parent. Catrina and I would spend hours listening to music as I taught her how to walk like a model. We would watch “Reba,” play games, color in coloring books together, watch movies, and I always, always did everything that I could to make her smile and laugh. We had two dogs for a while, when we still lived in our house, and she was so good about taking care of them.
I was proud as I watched her grades soar from B’s and C’s to straight A’s. I was happy as she went from only eating frozen chicken nuggets, to trying different kinds of food, to working out and staying healthy. I was ecstatic when I watched her go from a shy, introverted child to trying out for sports at school, getting involved in after school activities, making friends, painting, drawing, sketching (and boy is my baby talented), and getting involved in the community right alongside me.
Enlisting in the Army was one of the hardest things for me to do because I ended up having to return Catrina to her grandmother, since her grandmother wouldn’t sign over her parental rights to me. I cried that night when I had to say goodbye to my daughter and it felt like I was losing Vivianna all over again. Catrina and I kept in touch and to me, and to her and those who knew us at that time, she was still my child and I was still her parent.
So Vivianna Week has not only made me think of the child that I lost, but it makes me think of the child that I still have, even if it’s long distance. Catrina is smart and talented, my special ball of sunshine and being her parent is one of my proudest accomplishments. She doesn’t care that her dad is gay, she thinks I’m cool (though she thinks that her Aunties Cherie and MJ and her Grandpa Aleks are “freaking awesome”), and she has every faith in me that I will be successful and that I love her. She knows that I do and I know that love is returned. She remembers our time together fondly, as do I. She regularly brings up me singing her to sleep and reading bedtime stories to her and the day that I pretended to be in a musical, just to make her laugh (and let me tell you something, making up songs at the spur of the moment, is not easy at all). I remember those times as well, but I also remember taking care of her while she was sick. Buying her a tv as a reward for her good grades. Introducing her to my Granny Mary for the first time and watching the two of them connect and fall in love with each other (my Granny never stopped asking me about my sweet daughter). I remember the day that I had to return her and the tears that we both shared. I remember the day, a year and a half later when I had to go to the hospital with her, because she was pregnant and having pains and bleeding. I was scared and freaked out. Afraid that I would have to watch my child go through what I went through. I was ecstatic that she didn’t miscarry though I was grieved that I would become a grandparent so early and she would become a parent so young.
So while I lost Vivianna, I know that she would be happy to know that she has an older sister, Catrina, and a nephew named Hayden. I know that she would love them both and they would love her in return. It hurts that I lost her, but I’m almost positive that she led me to Catrina, who needed me more than she did and whom I needed just as much.
So, while tomorrow is the last day of Vivianna Week and I thank all of those who wrote posts, those who commented, those who wrote private emails to me letting me know that they were sorry that they couldn’t write a post but they still wanted to share a personal story with me and wanted to encourage me (mc-I’m talking about you), I say thank you. Thank you from the bottom of this gay man’s heart for your constant support and encouragement, for your love for your families, for the lessons that you taught, the memories that you shared. Thank you for helping me honor Vivianna, even if all you did was retweet a link or leave a comment. I appreciate you so very, very much. You have all become, in one way or another, family and close friends to me and it means more than I could ever put into words.
Thank you again.
Vicktor Aleksandr B