"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.