Here is a picture of James from last Thanksgiving. He was thankful for his Daddy. I think Kara dressed him in that because she knew if it said Daddy I'd be more inclined to allow my son to wear a shirt prominently featuring a Turkey. She was right, though if push came to shove I think we both knew he'd be wearing whatever she put on him, no matter how bedazzled. He was very cute, though I'm sure he had no idea what all the fuss was about.
I am thankful for the eight months and seventeen days I got to spend with him. I am thankful for his hair, his smile, and his laughter. I am thankful for the way he used to tug at the buttons of my shirt, perplexed that they were too flat to my chest to pop into his mouth. I am thankful for the soft way his chin rested on my shoulder during naps, and the rhythmic feel of his chest rising and falling with each breath against mine.
I am thankful for all of those small things, snatched from time, preserved for eternity. James and I reading from my Kindle together at two weeks old. He wouldn't stop crying no matter how much I walked him, rocked him, or cuddled him. I tried reading to him from one of his books- he had a library- but I needed one hand to hold him and couldn't quite master the art of holding both the book and James in a way that allowed me to turn the pages. So I picked up my Kindle and read Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" with him, as I only need one hand to turn the pages of the Kindle. He fell asleep during a discussion of bond tranches. If only I'd known finance was the answer to begin with. A little over six months old at the Arboretum. Kara was sick so we took a Daddy and James solo trip. We laid out on a blanket together. I attempted to take pictures but failed, James looking on in bemusement as if to remind me I should know better than to try a photoshoot on my own. We moved on to food. James wasn't interested in his food, but he liked the taste of the lemonade I bought out of the vending machine, which I know perfectly well I shouldn't have let him try. I was never a great disciplinarian. If I had it to do over again I'd have bought every drink there and let him have a sip.
I am thankful for all of these things and more. We've received a lot of support since James got sick. I've been overwhelmed at the generosity and kindness of strangers, from the giraffe contest to the notes that continue to trickle in months later. I went to the Starbucks on Northwest Highway a few weeks ago. Kara and I went through the drive thru the day after James died. In the cheerful way of baristas everywhere, the clerk asked us how we were. I think I stuttered to "not great" while desperately waiting for her to hand us the cup. She cheerfully asked why and I told her our son just died. I still remember how shocked she looked, and the awkward precision with which she rushed our cups out afterwards. When I went this time, a different barista took my order, but as I went to grab the cups, there she was, rushing up behind the barista actually handling my order. She said she'd been thinking my wife and I, and she hoped we were doing better. There've been a lot of things like that I'm grateful for, people have no cause to know us or think of us who have gone out of their way to help.
I wish I could say all of that made today easy. It did not. The holidays remain difficult, littered as they are with opportunities for you to imagine what should have been, no matter what is. I miss him everyday, some days more than most. Still, I'm more thankful than not. I was blessed to be James' father. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Thank all of you for all of your support this year. Your prayers, your thoughts, and your words. Enjoy the holiday and your families, and thank you for thinking of ours.