I'm a day late with this, but here it is.
For me the 29th is always harder than the 16th. The 16th at least represents some sort of finality, an unmistakable conclusion. It is an end point. The 29th is full of possibilities, unanswered questions that tug at edges my composure. The improvements are noticeable but incremental. October 29th was more unbearable than November 29th. Even the monthly counting itself represents a fascination that should have been ebbing. James would have been 13 months old, over a year and rapidly heading away from the period in which age is measured in months. I don't tell people I'm 335 months old for instance, and I suspect neither to do you. At first we measure in days, then weeks, then months and before you surrender to years entirely you're in elementary school, lording your five "and a half" over classmates. James will never make that progression, and so just as he's frozen in time so are the units in which I keep calculating his age. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. Five 29s gone. Almost half a year. I'm sure one day it'll stop, but I wonder when.
Each time,it seems something else strikes me in exactly the wrong way. Today for some reason is was the background picture on my phone. It's of James and Kara, posing before his last photo shoot with photolanthropy. We coaxed a smile from him and he's bouncing on Kara's hip. We don't know what's coming and we're happy. It was one of our last good days, before salt, swelling and the tumor caught up to us. His pictures are everywhere of course, but today each time I turned to my phone the dateline under the time of "Tuesday, November 29th" grabbed me. When will I change the background? There will be no new pictures. What would I have changed it to? James walking, talking, chasing the dogs? Rhetorical questions, all. It's always something.
For me, the best response is usually to do something. What isn't necessarily as important as the act itself. Work, find a new book, watch a movie, work out, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is to have something to do in order to prevent the rhetorical questions from devolving into a rhetorical narrative. I'm not suggesting reflection isn't important, it is, but for me at least it's important that it be at least purposeful. Four hours in bed focused on loss rarely helps me. There's a place for it, but I try to leaven my reflections with the good things when I can. James made me smile much more than anything else. When I can remember the good things as they were, not in the light of what isn't, I feel better. I still mark the time, but I can remember the 8 29s we had to celebrate and cherish them accordingly. This is sometimes easier in theory than practice.
So today it was the phone. We'll see what December brings. I've attached a photo of the last of James' weekly pictures. This is from his second full day in the hospital. He'd had surgery and been under general anesthesia multiple times within 48 hours of this picture, but the boy just can't stop smiling.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.