This picture isn't the one I'm talking about in this. It's just one I like.
I wake up early now. I never used to. In college, my roommate worked as a radio morning show DJ and woke up around four or five. We used to joke that his day began when mine ended. I scheduled classes late and spent more time without the sun than with it. That changed by necessity in law school, and as I age the hour seems to keep creeping up on me. I rise earlier and earlier, a habit my body now stubbornly clings to even on the weekends.
Morning is always the hardest time. James is clearest to me in the morning. Literally and emotionally, it’s the easiest time to find him. As the day goes on I get more easily distracted. E-mails, texts, phone calls. Anything you want to do and many things you do not want to do. I have tinnitus, and my ears ring loudest in the morning, fading as the day goes on as the ambient noise provides a distraction. James fades in the clutter of the day. He’s always there of course, just in the background. I think about him every hour. But he is clearest in the morning. The focus is sharpest and almost complete.
As I go through my morning routine, with nothing to do but brush my teeth and stare at myself in the mirror, I catch myself thinking of him. Lately, I think about him growing up. I think about Saturday mornings and cartoons, of toy bats and what it might have been like to have a kid rather than a baby. I wonder how he would have disrupted my mornings, breaking the silence of me standing in front of a mirror and brushing my teeth. I’ve started turning on the shower before I brush my teeth, and if I’m honest it’s at least in part to break the quiet so I spend less time dreaming up scenarios like that. The morning is the hardest time to distract myself.
Because I wake up early, I tend to go to work early as well. Again, I prefer to be doing. I am most productive in the mornings, again, because there are no distractions to keep me from doing the things I need to do. Early this week, in a fit of early morning productivity I elected to clean out my desk. I had not done so in over two years. Two seasons worth of Christmas cards, two years worth of napkins I kept from to-go lunches because “that will probably come in handy” which did not come in handy. Farther down, no doubt deliberately placed there, a whole series of condolence cards. I’m not sure I’d read them before. I do now. They’re touching and heartfelt. I wish I’d responded.
Beneath those I discover something I do remember doing. A whole set of James’ newborn pictures. When he was born I asked the facilities guy at my office to install a bulletin board beside my desk. I put all my James related memorabilia up on it. His pictures, the Valentine’s Day card he made me. The idea was that the board would continue to grow with James and keep him close during the day. The pictures, all but three, came down the day I came back to work. I just couldn’t deal with all of them. I left the card. The pictures went back into the sleeve and joined the heap at the bottom of my drawer.
I take each one out of the sleeve individually, pausing for a moment. Some have tape from where I attached them to the board or holes where I pinned them. I’d never be so careless with pictures of James now. It takes me until the fourth to start crying. It’s easier to cry in the morning. He’s wearing a knit hat, his hair peeking out from beneath the cap. I remember the photographer who took them not being quite sure what do with all of his hair. He’s swaddled and looking to the side, a dimple on his cheek. His eyes look bluer than I remember. “Who is Daddy’s best friend?” I ask the picture. I used to ask James that all the time. He’d laugh and laugh, especially if I made a particularly ridiculous face for him. “Jamesie!” was always the answer.
I spend a little while longer looking at it, long enough for the tears to dry, then I put the picture back up on the bulletin board. I feel close to him, and the extra picture feels right. The next day, I put up another picture. I did the same thing everyday this week, always in the morning, until I filled up the board completely again. It feels good to have more pictures of him. I’m still not great with mornings and I probably never will be. But I’m glad I least tried do something with that focus.
Thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers.