Saturday, February 4, 2012
Life has a natural sense of forward progress. There's a natural rhythm to it. You're born. You grow up, mingle with other kids and scrape your knees. You play games and dream of a day when you can spend one more hour exploring the creek, the woods, or whatever it might be. You go to school and grudgingly learn from your teachers, pent-up energy bursting at the seams in the desk. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Next to junior high and high school, all awkward bumbling and stylized socialization. Then college, laid back, philosophical, and free to do follow mood strikes you. You meet a girl with a similar bent and similar goals and you marry. Get a job, work hard, have a family.
With a few deviations, before James died my life was on course. I stumbled, sometimes badly, but I usually ended up in the right place one way or another. Good job, nice house, nice car. A beautiful little boy. The future was bright. Then James got sick, and the future died with him. I'm sure it's different for people who have more kids. If you lose one you have to keep going, you have a reason to. When you lose your only child you lose all that comes with having a family. Grandchildren, parenting, all the good reasons you had. With James went so many things. My first name is James, and my father and his father's, and so forth and so on. That's over now, two hundred years and it ends with me. James' furniture, neat and unused in his room, an empty nursery that I don't know what to do with. And so nothing happens, and the nursery remains, stocked and empty. People always bond by talking about their kids, it's a good source of common material. But I have nothing to contribute, I never had a kid. I had a baby and that baby died. My parenting stories begin and end with diapers and crawling. There's no transition to toddler. I usually say nothing. Nothing kills a good conversation like throwing your tragedy into the mix. It's not that I don't like to talk about James, I do. It's great to talk about him, and I love to hear what people thought of him. I just can't compare him to anyone else.
I'm out of sync with the life I planned. It vanished with James, and in its place is something much less appealing. Grief, loss, and all the emotions that come with it. Since we found out Kara was pregnant, James was my purpose. I think that's true of anyone with kids. You might get distracted, but when it comes down to it that's what you're doing.
My brother got married this weekend. It was lovely, if lengthy as Catholic weddings tend to be. An old downtown church full of architectural detail, like the Church I married in, but mine was Methodist instead of Catholic. The reception was enjoyable, an old theater in downtown Houston, complete with an open bar and an antique finish. Very roaring 20s. It was good to see my family and to celebrate, but I remember watching them dance, watching my cousin- 2 weeks older than James- trot down the aisle bearing the ring and feeling out of step. Out of step with where my life was supposed to be, with what I was supposed to accomplish by year 28. I imagined many tragedies, but this was never one of them. There was no how to manual, no contingency plan.
Part of this feeling is the loss of any perceived sense of control I had over my life. Although it's often an illusion, the idea that you're not just bobbing along in the waves offers a certain comfort. But that's silly. You don't control the world, and as recent events have proved to me conclusively, you often can't even control the things most important to you. I've come to the conclusion that the only thing you can really do is control how you respond to the things that happen to you. You can't control the waves, but that doesn't mean you have to drown.
That's how I feel about James sometimes. My life has been derailed, and I can either choose to drown with the vision of life I had or see what's on the other side. I'll admit I don't really know what that looks like yet. The rhythm is off, I don't expect to get back on track. I've gotten about as far as deciding that I'm interested in finding out what the new path looks like. The rest? Well, I'm not planning that far ahead anymore.
Thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers.