Thursday, January 12, 2012
This was the background picture on my phone for the longest time. It's James with his sunglasses on before we went to the Saint Patrick's Day Parade last year in his first outfit of the day. I always thought he looked really cool.
Somewhere scattered in the cobwebs of my brain remain the concepts of momentum and inertia. If my faulty High-School Physics (the high point of my physics education) recollection serves me right, together the two have to do with the energy needed to affect movement. Inertia is roughly how much energy you need to get something going, while momentum is the force it carries as it goes. It's quite possible I'm wrong. Math and science, while interesting, were never "core competencies" of mine. Lazy child that I was, I always migrated towards the subjects that came easiest to me, English, History, and all things verbal. I can still remember the disappointment I felt when we graduated to junior high, when reading, and thus another easy grade, lost its place on the report card. Pre-Algebra proved a poor substitute.
Since James died, I've felt like what I've needed to do was gain momentum. In the first few days after he died we were going non-stop, planning the funeral, picking out a grave, attending to all the little thing that needed to happen, too terrified to pause and reflect upon what had happened. Afterwards, in the first few weeks that followed time and life morphed into some indiscriminate blur, the pain too raw and too tense for processing or understanding. Everything dissolved once that initial momentum faded away, when family and friends left for the lives they put on pause to get us through those first few days. Sometimes I think what happened to us is closer to hitting the stop button than the pause button, the film ready to be ejected, not resumed.
The act of showering became an achievement, one I allowed myself only so that I could put on clothes and drive out to my son's grave. I remember closing my eyes and thinking to myself "You have to get up. You can't do this all day. Just get up and drive." I'm sure I did more than that. I know I brought books with me. I finished several. The plots and titles are vague, as if I didn't keep them long enough in my short term memory to form any lasting impressions of the characters or the plot. The initial momentum of those first few days faded into an almost total inertia, drifting along responding only to those problems that demanded immediate attention.
Since then, things gradually improved, but maintaining momentum is not easy. The old physics concepts of equal force and what not evaporate. Small things disrupt the flow, derail the day. Leaves gathering in his swing outside, left long enough that they've begun to crumble, brown and dead. There's no reason to clean them off anymore as we once did, careful to make sure James wouldn't get dirty. Cleaning out the trunk of my car (years overdue) I discover packages sent home with us by the doctors we interviewed when Kara was pregnant, stockpiles of formula and guides that I dump directly in trash. E-mails from buy-buy baby in every inbox, the product of registering each address for 20% coupons to double up on big purchases. Like the rocker, the same one he died in. I researched rocker brands and styles to make sure we got a good deal. I've almost stopped all the e-mails now, clicking through pages of distractions to get off the lists. Sometimes these little things leap out at me and the inertia slides right back in, and I'm useless for the rest of the day, playing that image over and over again in repeat. The finality of his death comes back to me and I lose myself in it.
There have been many times that I wished for this process to be linear, for benchmarks, some kind of metric to measure my progress in. Some kind of guide that tells you how you should feel 175 days out from your son dying- Day 199 in the old count I used to keep here. Day 1 was the day James got sick. On Monday, it will be 180 since he died. Six months. Half a year, two months shy of James' entire lifetime. The laws of thermodynamics don't work though- not to measure momentum, inertia, or any of the starting and stopping in between. It's not terribly neat. Nothing about this is. The hardest part has been to understand that maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe that's just the way it is, and it doesn't matter how stuck in inertia you get our how much momentum you build, as long as you find your way. I've decided to stop worrying about how.
Thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers.