Though it's often frowned upon, I've often applied the concept of relativity to my day to day life. It's intuitive, after all. I make x dollars. You are a member of the 1%. While you're certainly much richer than I am, we're both doing well compared to some. This principle is often a useful source of perspective. Applied correctly, it makes you appreciate what you have and value the things you do have. All too I've thought that we- myself no less than others- suffer from an ill-advised application of this principle. The tendency is always to notice what you lack, so often than you lose sight of what you have. It's a trite message and one I've always thought is overdone around Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the right circumstances, I think some healthy jealousy is quite motivating. There's no reason to go to do well in school or work hard if you don't want better.
Lately I've felt a lot of the wrong kind of jealousy. I catch myself watching other people's children's grow in a steady progression on facebook, while I trudge along with the same pictures, James frozen forever in time. They're learning to walk, talk, and making delightful little videos. I've blocked a few feeds. Just like James would be doing if he were here. I am jealous of the ease that seems to bless them, the casual way with which they go about their days, blissfully unaware of words like rhabdoid. Mercifully ignorant of the economics of cemetery plots and monuments. As the season turns and we drift farther and farther away from the long summer of James' illness, the fixed nature of his passing becomes even more unavoidable.
It's not that I can't, or don't want, to talk to people about their kids. Quite the opposite. I'm always pleased when people decide to have kids and want to talk about them. James was the best thing that ever happened to me, and the ending has nothing to do with that. It's great to talk to people and see how they're doing and their kids are doing. If anything, I get the impression people who know about James are less comfortable talking about their kids with me, perhaps because they fear that I won't take it well. That's not true. (Though if you make direct comparisons, as a few people have done, between your child's trip to the ER for a sinus infection and my son's terminal brain cancer we might have a problem.) I particularly enjoy talking about James. To do otherwise neglects the best part of his life, the part that had nothing to do with cancer and everything to do with his bright smile. It is important not to let the memories of James' death obscure the more important experience of his life.
Since he died, I've met a few people who didn't know. When asked if I have children, I try to give the same answer "I had a son, but he passed away." I tried saying "I don't have children" once or twice, with horrific results, including one person at a lawyer function who commented that I'd clearly looked at kids, looked at my job, and decided kids were too much of a commitment. "I have a son" is equally unhelpful, because there are no questions about that son I can answer in the present tense. So I've elected to go with the truth, because I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate him.
So it's not a particular sense of jealousy I feel towards the individuals. I'd never wish what happened to James on any family. It's a more generalized, relative sense of jealously for the life I'm not living. I'm missing a hypothetical. My life would be more like X if James were alive. If James were alive, X would be happening. Relative to my current situation, all of these things feel like an improvement, and I feel worse because of it. I remember feeling this way in the hospital, jumping right through the ER waiting room on each of our return trips from home, jealous of all the families waiting for care, because it meant their children were in no danger of dying before their wait ended. It's a frustrating, useless feeling, but it's there.
I try and sometimes succeed in telling myself that there's nothing to compare to. James is James, and I wouldn't trade him for anything. The relativity I should focus on isn't on the life I'm not living but on the life I did- how blessed I was to meet my son and to know him for the eight months that I did. Most of the time, I do. Sometimes though, it's hard to look past the easier analogies. Maybe next year, when I notice the seasons less.