I’m not sure how I will ever be able to tell the whole story. How will I be able to stop? I am still chipping away at it, I am still trying to get it all down. The story of Isaac is more than the tale of my grief, and more than how he left.
I worry sometimes that I will forget. I worry that there is only a finite window of memory left. There was so much love and so much shared between us by choice; I chose to parent that way, he chose to reciprocate it, I can’t explain it any better to myself now than I could when it felt so urgent. But I know there was a reason, whatever informed that sense and intuition is who I give my deepest thanks to. I bow humbly. I ask for nothing, there is nothing to ask for. I just give thanks that I got it, we got it, when it counted; while he was just a babe, and it never left me/us. Pay attention, savor it all, love like there’s no tomorrow.
These truths about myself, about my parenting, about my child– that we loved intensely, help me through the desperate moments. The ones I know are coming, the ones that take me off guard. Just today I was struck hard at the grocery store; I had to run in quick and didn’t have my purse, so Josh handed me his wallet. The whole thing instead of just the debit card. When it was time to pull out the debit card, I instead pulled out Isaacs drivers license. A noise came from me. It wasn’t enough that I was standing there in a crazy persons outfit; not expecting to be out among folks in their Sunday best, dressed for adventure on a cold spring day, I looked more like a toddler, in jeans with a skirt over them, a bandanna around my neck, bright purple sweatshirt (Jenn! I think you may have left it while house sitting?) flowered rain boots and wind blown hair. A whirlwind trying to be inconspicuous– and this deep noise rose from me. I quickly tried to contain it. I had never seen this license since losing Isaac. I was simultaneously touched that Joshua carries it with him always as I was engulfed in the burning hot flames of ache that it can be carried by someone else, that it is not missed, by Isaac or even myself. I had never considered it and yet I knew instantaneously that Josh got it when the police returned Isaac’s “personal effects”… All I wanted was his phone. Did I not notice the wallet?
If you have grieved, deeply, desperately, then you may know that grief lends itself to a rich fantasy life. Dreams while asleep and while wide awake take me all the way through a memory or a hypothetical alteration of the facts. They are as real as anything I know. All day I’ve been thinking about what I remember, what I’ve forgotten. Thinking real hard lately about how we would hold hands sometimes while driving, and in my minds eye, I can recreate it so precisely that with my eyes squinting and tears falling, I can feel his soft and cool and slightly clammy hand in my own, again.
It started when he was small. First, he would take my pinky like a binky– it fit perfectly and soothed him. (Funny enough, my little sister and I have the same hands and he would also accept her pinky! But no one else’s.) this worked great in car rides when nothing else would do. Then he would just hold my finger while I drove, and it would keep him content. If his dad was driving I would sit in back with him and let him hold my finger, and as he grew we kept doing this. He would be in the back seat while I was driving and he would “miss me”, he would say this. We might be driving to granny’s, to traverse city, or even just down to the market here at home. I would put my hand back into his lap and he would just hold it. He would hold my hand until we arrived, my hand was his version of a blankey.
When he got bigger, and was sitting in the front seat beside me, I would reach over, open palmed, and he would hold my hand. When the first signs of adolescence began, I discovered those signs while holding his hand in the car; it was sweaty. I can remember he seemed a little embarrassed about holding my hand, but he also didn’t push my hand away. He looked out the window, avoiding eye contact. I thought it might be the end of holding hands and though I was a little sad, I didn’t want him to feel like he had to do it anymore. We never really spoke about it, it was just a form of affection like rubbing a back or touching a cheek. It wasn’t every time we were in the car together. It was just when either of us felt like it. It was a thing, but not the only thing, and I think it’s what kept it feeling sacred and why, it wasn’t very long after that one time, that I forgot he had been the slightest bit awkward, that I reached out my open palm to him and he clutched it, and he did this until the end. It was just another one of our things.
So many of these things. I try to make a list. I see a mama and a son playing at the ball park. I think of us. Bike rides and picnics and swimming and playing basketball. Reading stories and planting flowers and pulling weeds. Rice crispy treats and shucking corn and washing dishes, taking the recycling, going thru the car wash, stopping on the side of the road to pick wildflowers, honking the horn as we passed a friends house, craving gummy worms, marking off the calendar until summer vacation, folding laundry, walking on the shoreline, watching the sunset, singing. Life reminds me of Isaac. He is everywhere and nowhere to be found. He is missing.
I’ve been thinking about how it all shakes out. There is a swell of grief and then there is an attempt to fix it, to find a new normal, to find joy, to find my way. There is always the effort of my pain being bearable for those around me– for them to not feel I am hurting too much. For me to find balance. For me to be something besides the sad mama who lost her souls dearest companion. For me to dance between remembering and forgetting.
PMS fucks it all up. Every cycle. Back to ground zero. I try to convince myself and my husband “it’s just my cycle–I’m sorry” I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.
But I’m finding that all the effort of trying to be ok is like this photo I saw recently of kids before prom with a tornado in the background. I’m not ok and I am at the same time. I find at times that moving forward feels like a betrayal. I loved him too much to pretend I am ok. And then this is followed by I love him so much I have to go on, for him. To live and love because he cannot. And then back and forth and back again. And I need to be ok for everyone else. And myself. And also, I don’t know how to.
Losing a child feels like insanity. Maybe I am crazy and no one has the heart to tell me. But also, who can know what’s “normal crazy” when you lose a child? I know what depression feels like and this is different. Unless I am suddenly bi polar, which, I am NOT making light of anyone who is, but I do swing hi and low, sweet chariot. I want to say yes to everything and I am also far too anxious to say yes very often. I want to blossom and I want to wilt. I want to shine and I want to fall down on my knees in the middle of the store and wail. And get up when I’m ready. And be tended to and to be left the fuck alone. I want to be alone and I never want to spend another second alone. I want to run away and I want to stay here and look for signs of Isaac– living memories of all the places we loved together.
And so I do it all. I feel it all. And I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. But I’m trying to do it all with love, even when I don’t feel like there’s much inside me that is made of love, that isn’t touched by loss, that isnt on the verge of weird primal noises that I should hide from the world. That I can’t hide. That I dont want to. That I don’t know how to. That I’m not sure that I should.
And here is the point, I guess. As I sort through the memories, as I sort through the pain and rubble and confusion and the mystery and the love and the life then and now, hope remains. Hope is faithful. I hope I remember– I hope I survive– i hope I’m not crazy–I hope I can be loving– I hope the pain lessens– i hope to live a full life despite incalculable loss. I hope to maintain hope.
And today that feels like enough. Today I have done enough. Today, I found hope, again.