Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I should not have asked the question, but I did. All of our modern technology has put the answers at our fingertips, and I am sometimes unable to resist the temptation. It is not healthy. I am holding my phone in palm, sheathed in the plastic comfort of LifeLock. It's an iPhone cover that is meant to be waterproof, and it largely is. It makes for a neat party trick, dunking the phone into  glass of water, the horrified and reflexively wincing faces of the guests all turned towards you in sympathetic shock. Of course, this is not why I have the LifeLock. The intuitive appeal to me, despite the cloud, was that it preserves the photos of James (now backed up into multiple formarts and independently maintained locations) so that I may never lose them. But that's not what I'm worried about now. Despite my paranoia I now have a new phone, after a year the previous one died and the cloud saved James, just as I'd hoped. He is here now too, as though he never left, his face fixed in an ever curious and joyful smile on my background. The technicians at the store remarked that I had a beautiful son when they loaded the backup. I did not correct them.

The new phone has Siri, and I've just asked her a question even though I know the answer. "Siri, how many days are between October 29, 2010 and July 16, 2011?" Siri's reply is prompt and wolfram apha branded. "260." "Siri, how many days between July 16, 2011 and today?" "407." There are some questions I should know better than to ask.

The disparity is surprising, even now. It seems like a lopsided and uniquely unfair bit of math. Yet it has passed so quickly. I am reminded of visiting the beach, tossing a bottle in the water and watching it intently for a while. Inevitably you are distracted, friends make conversation, drinks are refilled, sand castles built. When you look up it seems as though no time at all has passed, but the tide has inexorably drawn the drifting bottle farther and farther away from view. It is surprising, and you are struck by the fact that it did so much while it seems you did so very little. I often feel this way about James. It seems like such a short while ago we were laughing and playing together, crawling from the living room to the kitchen. But when I turn to look again I realize that it was longer ago that I thought, that the days have gone faster and without as much deference to my preference as I had hoped. I am reminded yet again of what sometimes seems a great injustice, that James should have so little time with us. I am not as angry as I was. Each of those 260 days was an enormous blessing. There is nothing in my life that I would trade for being James' father. But I sometimes worry that like the bottle he is drifting away from me, slowly floating far enough out that I can not reach him. The steady rhythm of time bears him farther and farther out.

On one hand, this is not all a bad thing. I'm not watching all the time anymore. He's always there, but I'm less obsessive than I was. That's good. On the other, I feel like as he goes away I am losing still more of him, silly as that seems. I miss him of course, all the time. The tears are still there, on demand. I never feel as though I'm losing him. I just worry sometimes I'm losing sight.

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


This is a prototypical smiling James photo. Eyes wide, mouth agape. His arms are likely flailing.

James excelled at smiling. When I think of him, he is almost always smiling. I am grateful for that. There were many different types of smiles. You- or at least I- never really expect babies to be as engaging as they are, to come with personalities. Before James was born I wondered what exactly I was going to do with a tiny person who could neither talk nor move. I grew up in a relatively baby free environment, no cousins, no significantly younger siblings. I never baby sat or spent a significant amount of time with babies prior to James' birth.

What I remember being most surprised at was how easy it was, and how surprisingly communicative James was in his own, non-verbal way. James never cried much or vocalized much beyond excited yelps of delight or mild fusses of displeasure, so I mostly gauged how well I was doing by how much James was smiling. And James smiled all the time. He was one of the happiest, most engaging babies I've ever known (assume a huge amount of bias). Throw him in the air, he smiles. Put him on a swing, he smiles, toss him a toy, he smiles. Once he started to laugh he'd often accompany the smiles with laughter, ranging from shrieks to a steady, hilarious chuckle. One of my favorite videos of him ever is one Kara took of him laughing at the dogs fighting. He's sitting at his playstation (or whatever you call those) and steadily laughing, his whole body heaving with it.

 Even after he got sick, I remember one of the first things that let us know that he was feeling better was when he started playing and laughing again almost immediately after his first procedure (his EVD). James was a little boy who could not stop laughing and smiling even after doctors put him under general anesthesia and literally placed a drain inside his head. If anything the new wires gave him something new and fun to play with (much to his nurse's distress). I am so proud of him.

As more time passes between the when James left and now, the overwhelming impression of James must be of a smiling, happy little boy. I take great solace in the fact that whatever else happened to James, I have more memories of him smiling than anything else. Sometimes, when grief crowds in and threatens to blot out the everyday joys of being here, I think of James' smile. I remember what a delight he was to be around. And the horrible things feel much smaller. I have James to thank for that.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.