Thursday, July 21, 2016

Five Years Later

I remember.  Perhaps that is all that remains, five years on.  Our father son relationship long ago exited the kind of linear progression I initially envisioned with his birth.  Walking, talking, elementary school, junior high, high school.  Awkward advice chats about how to handle girlfriends.  Well-meaning instructional sessions on how to throw a football and a baseball, though god knows he’d be better off learning all things sports from someone else.  The most I could contribute would be lessons in the fine art of armchair quarterbacking.  James and I will never share those kind of father son moments, in our last moments he will always remain eight months and 17 days old, full of promise and aspiration.  I will never know the five and a half year old boy he’d be today, on the edge of kindergarten and a brave new frontier.  I would have liked to, but he’s only a projection now, more uncertain in nature with every year.  What remains is memory. 

That’s all I can do for him on a certain level.  Sure, I can raise money for cancer, heighten awareness, but these all amount to varieties on a theme.  I give to charity or research, I post links reminding my friends to go gray for May.  It’s not for May though, and it’s barely for brain cancer, which I am interested in primarily and viscerally because of James.  It’s for him.  It’s to remind the world and everyone that he was here, that he got sick, that he died, and that he was wonderful despite all that.  I can’t post pictures of his birthday party or his first day of school.  I will never update his picture in my office.  All I can do is to pause now and again and remind the world that he was here, and he was loved.  He’s still my son, and I’m still his father.  I remember. 

I remember the first I saw him, rising in the doctor’s hands over the partition in the ER, the nurses scurrying to take him over to a table.  I followed mutely, or if I spoke I cannot remember the words because they had no meaning.  I remember a great feeling of awe washing over me as it registered that this had happened and the months of waiting for it to happen and the months of knowing it would happen were overcome by the staggering reality of it actually happening.  Somehow, it never seemed real until then, or rather I did not understand what it meant until then.  I never knew what it would feel like to be a father until then.  How could I have?  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I remember giving him his first bath in the hospital room a few hours later.  The nurse walked me through it and I was terrified I’d break him, drown him, or some combination thereof.  He was so small, and the nurse made a comment about his hair, thick and lustrous already.  People always said something about his hair. 

I remember the first time I took him for a walk, how paranoid I was about every little bump on the sidewalk, afraid I’d wake him.  James, of course, ultimately proved almost completely oblivious to bumps once he’d fell asleep, and amused by them when awake. 

I remember an afternoon I took him to the Dallas Arboretum, one of many trips, but the only one we took with just the two of us.  I tried, and failed, to pose him for a number of photos, resulting in a hilarious reel of blinking, confused, and smiling James photos that I still have.  In all of them, he seems to be wondering why I’ve been permitted to attempt this.  He’s absolutely right.  I remember giving up and retreating to the biergarten, it must have been spring, and drinking a beer him sitting in my lap, intently examining the passerby. 

I remember his laugh (loud) , his smile (wide, but low on teeth), and the way he lit up when someone new walked into the room for him to play with.  He had such a wonderful spirit.  He was so wonderfully alive, wiggling, rolling and crawling army style (he never mastered the coordination to include legs).  Engaged with everything. 

I remember later too of course.  The rapid escalation of illness from “unknown stomach bug” to “atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor” over the course of little more than a month.  I remember James lying in his hospital bed and smiling despite the IVs, the shunt and after more procedures in a shorter time span than most people ever endure.  He never stopped laughing, and displayed more grace than I can conceive of.  He made us very proud. 


I remember my son every day.  I will always be immensely proud to have been one of his parents, and the last service I can offer him is to remember him.  I will continue to do so.  Five years later that’s what I want him to know.  We’re still here son.  We miss you.  We remember. 

15 comments:

  1. Hard to believe it has been 5 years. You don't know me. I don't remember how I happened upon your blog but your writing and the way you captured your son's personality drew me right in. I hope you are doing as well as you can possibly be doing after losing your precious son. There are lots of people who remember. I know I do.

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  2. I still remember James, I think of him often. I advocate for pediatric cancer research, especially brain tumors. Something about that beautiful little boy will always remain with me.
    I've wanted to say so many times how I honored James, but not wanting to rub salt in the wound. You see, I had my oldest son and gave him the middle name of James before I knew of your beautiful boy. When I found out I was having another boy in the summer of 2013, I knew right his middle name would be Camden. And so it is. Every time I write their full names together I think of Jamesie.
    Much love and healing to you on this day, which I'm sure is more pointedly difficult than the rest.

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  3. He is our hearts forever. I remember the way he lit up everything around him with that smile and big blue eyes. Love you.

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  4. Five years closer to when you see him again. I remember following his story all that time ago, and I have never forgotten. You are in my thoughs and prayers often.

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  5. I did not know your precious son, but I remember him. I remember his story and I still think of him...

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  6. I remember. Although I never knew your family, I will always remember James. Thank you for continuing to write.

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  7. James is remembered in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

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  8. Continuing to pray for you and Kara. James was born a week before my son and I have followed your journey from the beginning. He is not forgotten. You are Kara are not forgotten. I wish there were words to take away some of the pain and grief.

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  9. I too think of your precious James. He is not forgotten. James opened my eyes to pediatric cancers and that only 4% of donations go to research childhood cancer. It is not enough. My grandson's 10yr old friend has an inoperable brain tumor #teamTristan and a sweet precious 8yr old Jonny Wade gained his angel wings this past Christmas Eve. So my prayers are with you and James Mommy and also for all those walking through this dark valley. God bless
    Kerry💙

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  10. I too remember James - I think of him quite often actually. Having recently lost a son who was stillborn, I understand the importance of remembering them, of validating their existence and still feeling immensely proud of them - just as a parent should. I think of you and Kara often as well and pray that God continues to pour out goodness, even when there is bitterness with it. When we lost Levi I thought about James and hope that James can keep him company until we can hold our babies again.

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  11. I think of James often, all the way from Australia. I can't fathom what you have been through but you are in my thoughts always.

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  12. I think of James often, all the way from Australia. I can't fathom what you have been through but you are in my thoughts always.

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