Saturday, November 5, 2011
I meant to post this last week. I did not. Here you go.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. There was supposed to be more. A party, a cake. One James attended not in his 37th week but his 52nd, full of life and vigor. He was supposed to smile, play, and even if he didn't know what was going on, know it was all about him. He never stirred during the party we did get to have for him, poor baby. I often wonder when the exact moment he slipped away from our being able to reach him, even though I know it happened slowly, with no anticipation. I believe he could hear us at the end I just wish he'd had a way to let us know. Pouring over my pictures of him I stumbled upon what I think is the last picture I have of him playing. He's munching on a mum mum bar, his favorite, back arched in that typical way of his, always striving to move more, do more, and see more. He died a week later.
I wonder what he would have looked like, if his hair would've gone blond or settled in the middle. If eyes would retain their vibrant blue or shift to another tone. If his fangs would've become crowded with more teeth around them. I have so many "what ifs" that I cannot begin to list them. Each moment represents an independent one, all dependent upon the same event. To use a legal term, they assume facts not in evidence. There is no evidence of my son now, only what I speculate might have been. It is a poor substitute, because James from the moment he was born was a terrific surprise to me. I was never sure exactly what fatherhood entailed and if I am honest it did not come to me immediately like motherhood did to Kara. It took time for the reality of it to sink in, for the love I felt for my son to translate into a fundamental change in who I was. Just as I was getting the hang of it, I stopped being a father. I don't know what to do with that. I sympathize when others talk about their babies but the experiences I can share run out before walking and talking.
Today brings everything to the surface. Thoughts that I might otherwise keep at bay with a few more hours at work or a book come rushing to the foreground, because I am not doing what I should be. Looking at the difference between last year and this year invites a comparison that cannot be avoided. At 10:20, James was born. We were in the ER and I was wearing scrubs (I still have them, I stole them as a memento from the hospital). Kara was getting her second hit of morphine and ascending to a higher plain, and the nurses dragged James over to weigh him. He was screaming, just like he should've been, a relief after all the trouble they had keeping his heart rate steady. All anyone could talk about was his hair, thick and matted onto his head. He looked just like Kara, her nose and cheeks. I wanted to hold him but they kept running tests, so I didn't get a chance for a few minutes, minutes I spent anxiously videotaping, sure we'd share it with our embarassed son twenty years later. He was perfect, just as he should have been.
This year, 10:20 was quiet. No screams, no babies, no anything. Just more stillness. You forget how loud babies are, as they have no sense of propriety. They are delightfully uninhibited and free as adults never are to scream, cry, and laugh, often all at once. James was just like that. In his absence, the silence is all the more obvious. Stunning, even.
So what did I do? We went to a DAYL event. I wanted to stay longer but I couldn't. It was sweet of them to honor James, and the event itself was a lot of fun. I encourage all of you with families to go to the zoo, it's a great place to take a family and there's a ton of things to do. Jamie is growing, though she has yet to master the art of eating grass- it's awkward enough that you understand why giraffes prefer leaves. I'm glad the DAYL is doing more family stuff, I think it's healthy and lets you get to know people in a different setting. I went to the cemetery, of course. Balloons fluttering in the wind wishing a happy first birthday to a patch of dirt now nearly completely covered in grass. Despite myself I worry between the tears what will happen when I'm not around to clean up the balloons after they deflate. I cannot tolerate the idea of his grave appearing uncared for. I care. It is peaceful as always, but the stillness serves again as a reminder of how loud it should be.
Some days are better than this. I can get busy enough on something or get enough work in front of me that I'm occupied enough that I can push it to the margins. Some days I remember more of the good things, and the rest seems less important. I can function, laugh, joke, and enjoy life. Today was not one of those days. I couldn't function, couldn't tell you what I worked on all day the day before on or even let you know what I planned for dinner. I think I tried to put on a good front. I have no idea if I was successful.
It's annoying because I don't want James' anniversaries to be marked by loss. I don't want to look at the 16th every month and do a mental calculation of how long it's been since he died. I don't want to take each 29th and do a mental calculation of how old he should be. I don't want to dwell on it. I want to think of as he was- the joyful little boy who lit up every time you walked in the room, and couldn't get enough being thrown in the air. I want to remember his little cackle when the dogs played in front of him, not the labored sounds he made as he struggled to breath near the end. I don't want that to be the most important thing about James, because there are so many more important things. His smile was worth all that alone. I don't always get what I want though. Sometimes I can't help myself, even though I want to. Sometimes I can't be more than mad. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next year. But I'm not giving up on someday. James wouldn't.
Happy Birthday son. We miss you.
Thank all of you for your support this week, it meant a lot.