I still remember the first time the Haze descended upon me. You'll forgive me if I capitalize it, like a proper name, something of importance, which of course it is not to anyone but me. James had died less than two hours before. The nurse from the hospice, not out regular nurse, had arrived. Our regular nurse had a pending engagement with Harry Potter, a movie I still haven't seen for that reason. She told us about it the first time we met her, huddled in an ICU room and trying to absorb the fact that this woman would be the one who came to declare our son dead after he died in our arms. If Harry Potter did not interfere. I wonder if she knew then, sharing that piece of information with us as we were trying to talk about anything but, that we had very little time left. I wonder if she knew we had 72 hours give or take, at home with him after we left the hospital. I still remember the walk from the room to the car, James sleeping peacefully, never to awake. I miss even that. In any event, James died during Harry Potter, and a backup nurse came to meet James only in death. A friendly enough fellow I suppose, though I can't imagine what the circumstances call for.
He'd left to talk with the funeral home owner who'd come to pick James up in a minivan with a car seat in the front seat, as if James would ever have been allowed to sit in the front seat. For some reason, I don't remember why, we'd put James in his crib. We'd dressed him, an awkward process that I do not want to remember, but can't not. He was lying there and for some reason I was suddenly alone, just he, I, and the crib. I'd cried before of course, long jagged sobs with my father, mother, or uncle's arms around me. We'd sat alone in his rocking chair after, and I'd composed myself enough to tell him how desperately I loved him, and how I hoped he'd see lots of friends on the other side, that if he asked my Grandparents they'd take him to get a new toy. But for some reason I felt especially isolated in those moments with him, waiting for the funeral director to come back and take him, in perfect agreement with the hospice nurse that he was dead and didn't need the crib anymore, wondering if I'd like to carry him to the mini-van. In the end I did, because I carried him into the house, and I wanted to carry him out as well. I was his father. But I didn't even know where the van was going. I'd never gotten that far.
And then it hit me. A sudden, swift haze, an edge of unreality and isolation descending over the whole scene. The voices in the house, the dozen or so odd people gathered in vigil around my son's deathbed distant, indistinct voices. To this day I couldn't tell you who all was there, or how or when they arrived. A strange disconnect emerged between us, a Haze isolating me from the rest of it, the world beyond. I often respond appropriately, I am witty, functional, even effective, but the Haze comes now and then, and I'm right back where I started, alone in his room watching him as though he were sleeping in his crib. It's an odd sensation, a curious disconnect. It's not that I'm not there, I'm just thinking about somewhere else, and everything else is out of focus, as if I'm listening to them underwater or drunk. It's not all the time. Just every now and then. Small things. Checking the mail and all the bills are to James Sikes, even though both of the James Sikes I knew are dead and gone. My Dad is Jim and I'm J. Matthew. Ten generations and I'll be the last one. If only AT&T knew. The Haze strikes me, and takes a few minutes or an hour, whatever the case may be. Like a pall descended over everything, coloring the margins with grief and deflecting the day. When it happens though, I'm right back at the crib, alone with my dead son, and I still have no idea what to do next. I'm still working on that, some days the answers are better. There are comforts- Jamie the Giraffe, adorable as ever, James' fund, the hundreds, thousands of people who have been moved by him. I'm selfish enough that I'd trade it all for another hour of him laughing.
I miss him desperately and constantly, with a sense of urgency that is completely inappropriate to the situation. So I'll give a few more hours, a few more days here and there when I'm not too busy to the Haze, and in the end it will pass, as it must. Because time will not stop, and our moment at the crib has passed. I will pray, and hope God has an answer. Eventually perhaps, the Haze will pass. I don't ask for timelines anymore. I learned long ago there's no use in bothering.