Wednesday, October 31, 2012


This picture is from James' original birthday.

On Monday, James turned two. He was born on a Friday. I almost wrote Thursday, and it felt that way. Kara's labor began shortly after midnight on Thursday and James was born around 10 the next morning. His hair drew immediate attention of course, a full head of brown spikes with almost frosted tips, blonde highlights caught in the light that enamored the nursing staff and passerby alike. Perhaps because of this, James became an exceedingly popular baby almost instantaneously. While other babies made do with single strands of hair or bald crowns, James shamed them all in the nursery. I was irrationally proud of him. He was perfect.

I miss that sense of surprise. I miss watching him grow and wondering what came next. Wondering when he would crawl, talk or walk. I miss watching his brown hair grow out with blondish roots, his eyes slowly settling into new shades of blue. He was always changing, growing. On his birthday I thought a lot about that. I wondered how big he might be now. How fast he could walk, what words he would know. These are the easy things of course, the milestones that are clearly identifiable in baby books. As I learned from James, there a thousand others they never mention, steps along the way that matter to no one but the two of you. The first time he laughs at you (and you meant for him too). The first time you see yourself in him.

I miss getting to know him. I wonder about the toddler he would have been and the father I would have been. This year it hit me more vividly than last, when I could still imagine him much as I last remembered him. That's not feasible this year. This year he would have been so different. It bothers me most that I cannot know how, though I desperately want to.

These are small disappointments of course, stray thoughts that can bring nothing but grief. Days like that go better when I think of the overwhelming joy that accompanied his birth- when I remember how idiotically proud I was of my infant son's hair. To dwell on the rest and to speculate about the precise dimensions of my loss is an invitation to a downward spiral. I try (but do not always succeed) avoiding those.

Happy Birthday son. We miss you.

Thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It hasn't been a while

"I know it's been a while, but..." People say that a lot. It's a clarification. When about to discuss something horrible, distance becomes important. Talking about the thing itself, with all of the reality that entails, is challenging.  There is not a "light" way to discuss the death of your child. It simply doesn't work. So people employ a variety of strategies to distance themselves. "It's been a while" is perhaps my least favorite. Because it hasn't been a while.

That is not necessarily factually true. It has been over a year. October creeps up, and with it James' birthday. He would have been two. Today was his due date, fixed in my calendar last year for months. I don't look at that calendar very much anymore. He lived a third of what would have been his actual age,  a fraction that becomes increasingly lopsided as the months roll by. I wish I wouldn't keep track but I can't help myself. There are  lot of mental tics like that I wish I'd do away with.

A lot can happen in a year, indeed a lot did, but the time itself seems insubstantial. On some days I can close my eyes and I'm back at the hospital, fighting with doctors and trying desperately to do, even though never was much to do. Random memories pop into focus. James lying in bed in the PICU the night after his craniotomy. It was one of the corner rooms, an oddly shaped polygon with uneven wall lengths and an awkward, poorly planned corner. The sleeper couch was in the corner of course, farther away from James' bed than in other rooms. It drove me crazy all night because I was just far enough away that I couldn't quite make out the reading on his cranial pressure, which we needed to watch. I dragged the couch closer and spent the whole night just watching him and the number climbing and falling on the monitor. I'd been so afraid they'd take all his hair in the operation, but he still had so much. I remember how proud of him I was, how hopeful. None of that feels very far away. If anything it is alarmingly present.

So it bothers me when people tell me it's been a while. I do not like consigning James to the dustbin of memory, neatly tucked away in a filing cabinet somewhere inside my mind. I refuse the implication in its entirety. The passage of time does not make what happened less important, and it can have no impact on the way I think and feel about James. That is not to say that I expect or want to spend the rest of my life doing nothing but grieving for James- I don't, and I think James would be tremendously disappointed if I did. That said, this is not one of those things that eventually just becomes something that happened once upon a time, like graduating from high school or college. This is something that is forever happening, because James is forever gone. It is an ongoing event, because I will always be James' father and I will always love him, not a while ago, but each and every day.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.