Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Things I'd like to ask

On the way to work today, the park awash in pastels, I wonder what Jesse thought. He spent so little time with us after he left for college, that I honestly no longer know him as well as I once did. I fantasized about what I'd ask his friend, his girlfriend, if they would only tell me. All of you who knew him know he felt distant from me. What I'd like to know is why. I couldn't think of anyone I knew in college to whose parents I could explain why their kid was distant from them at that time, but I think Jesse must have been pretty articulate about whatever it is I did. It's not that I think I could fix the relationship now, it's just that I want to know. I want him as he was, in my heart, not the parts of him that I remembered from childhood, what he let me see as a young adult. I cried all the way through the park, realizing how far away he seems.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

As if I'd just written it:


I look for you everywhere. I know you’re not there. I hear your voice calling me, but I know it’s only a memory of all the times you’ve called me Mom. If I can’t find you, I want to find people talking about you, telling each other about you. How much they miss you, who you were to them, who you told them you wanted to be. I want to be as close to you as we were when you were little. I want you to sit beside me and neither of us be afraid or angry or hurt any more. I know you’re gone. That there’s no way to know where you’ve gone or if in any way you exist as yourself any more. I understand why people need to believe in that other place. Because otherwise, how do we endure the pain of this loss?

“I’ll carry you. I’ll go from world to world until I find a time and place when you can come awake in safety. And I’ll tell your story to my people.”

This morning your brother told me that it was easier to handle his dad dying than you. Because he said no one cared about his dad dying—he meant you, me, Dan, the people he knew. That your dad didn’t have friends. That I wasn’t affected by his death the way I am about yours. Reminding him of the loss by my grief.

Even now I feel myself in the middle of a conversation with you. Things we had talked about in the hospital, that I meant to follow up on, that I wanted to ask you more about. That should have been different. The infection, the fever, but that didn’t kill you. How strange and terrible it was that it was a brain hemorrhage. None of it seems real. That you are gone, although I saw it all. The way you went, although I can’t deny any of it. That I will never see you again, although I know this is true.

Do you know how much I miss you? How many times I think of you and the shock of it hits me again, wracks me physically like a hand tearing out my chest? I’ll fight thinking of your face, in laughter, in anger, in death, because it makes me want to die, too, to stop this pain. This weekend I started saying good night to you at night, and good morning when I wake up. I think it might help to pretend a little that you are still here somehow. There were plenty of times since you moved back home that you weren’t so glad to see me, that there was nothing to look at but the closed door, but still I was glad. Happy, joyful that you were there, home with me, safe. I didn’t care. I didn’t know how soon it would end, but I am glad, glad, glad that I had those months. I’ve put up pictures of you everywhere I look, so I’ll get used to it. So that the thought of your face doesn’t waylay me and destroy me every morning. So that the idea of your death no longer rips at my gut.

Last night I received a book in the mail. It was a nice new hardcover copy of Ender’s Game, the book I took your memorial quote from. Inside was a note from Card’s wife Kristine, explaining that they had heard about you and your card quote from somebody at my old job. Card had inscribed the book to me, a sweet paragraph about loss of a child and his being glad we found some comfort in that quote. You would have loved it.

I realized this morning that one thing that makes it so hard to “put you away” so to speak is how incredibly angry you would be to see me/us doing these things if you were alive. I feel like I’m violating your privacy when I open your mail, go through your computer and check your accounts and debts. It makes me sick thinking about what it means: the finality of it. That you will never come back for these things, or to hold me accountable for what I’m doing with them. Oh GOD how I wish you would. I wish there were some way you could just let me know you’re ok, you forgive me, you accept my forgiveness, that we are ok, that we are at peace with each other at last, not simply because you are gone forever.

I realize that part of what makes this so hard is that I can’t just ball up everything I know about you and toss it. I can’t find anything okay about losing you. Tomorrow I’m going on Prozac. I hope it helps me through the worst of it. You know, at some point every day I find myself looking for something about you online. I google you. I reread your blog. I reread emails people have sent me.

As much as I know that it won’t hurt me so much as time passes, I don’t want time to pass, because every day is one day further away from the last time we ever talked. The last chance I had to be there with you. I try to tell myself that you are just as much in the past today as you will be a hundred years from now, but somehow that doesn’t work. I want to go back in time, and the time when you were here is so close, so close I can remember everything about it, and yet it’s over, it’s gone, and I can never ever go there again and relive those moments with you, good or bad.

About the funeral

How his service went:
No clergy, just one of the Fordham deans sharing what the profs thought of him, then his friends and family telling stories about him. Three women from his contracts class said now that he's gone law school won't be fun anymore. (I guess you have to be in law school to get it?).

We wanted to do cards for him, but he's an atheist so we couldn't exactly have Jesus and the Simpsons' clouds. So I found a photo of him at two and a half, running bare-butt away from me toward the lake. For his saying on the back I chose a line from one of his favorite books: "I'll carry you. I'll go from world to world until I find a time and place when you can come awake in safety... And I'll tell your story to my people."

It's not just that I miss him. Whole futures no longer exist. No forgiveness, no plans, no plan B, no chance reunion. No "I will." When you have children, you don't just have people, you have this whole span of their unimagineable tomorrows. Those are gone.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another dream

Last week, I dreamed that I saw Jesse on the street. I caught up with him and offered him his glasses. He smiled and said, no, I don't need them any more, Mom.

It wasn't till I woke up that I realized why.

Maybe part of me is finally learning that he's really gone. I find it hard to let go of that insane wish that he come back. You'd think that insanity was my only hope of sanity. The psychiatrist said it would be easier on me if I had a religion. Why? I said, because Jesse was an atheist, and no religion I know of would let him into heaven anyway. I'd rather nothing than eternity without him and his brother.

What is the psychiatrist's view of religion? She seems to think it's helpful, even though she agrees with me that it's got all the earmarks of a neurosis. There's nothing in reality that proves or is conditional on the existence of an afterlife or God. You can only hope or believe it's so. Reading the Bible only shows you that the concept of God is tied heavily to the civilization who imagined it. If God were an objective reality, he might have mentioned knowledge of the world that the Israelites didn't have-- oddly God seems innocent of the very physics of the world he created, with all the talk of firmaments and suns rising and setting. And, jeeze, what a petulant, destructive asshole that God is. Have you read Job? But if it's a neurosis that helps you adapt to the harsh reality that we all die, is it necessarily harmful? Why is any particular religion better than just picking what you want to believe and fleshing it out as you go?

People who believe in the intervention of God puzzle me now. Do they think Jesse was a bad person, so God let him die early of a rare disease? Am I evil because God didn't answer my prayers and let him live? Believe me, I begged everyone I knew to pray for him in any form they could. I believe they did. Were all of my friends and family too evil for God to listen to? Do people really believe there is a greater good being served by Jesse's death? That God "works in mysterious ways?" If God can't or won't intervene, then all we can do is accept what God has to offer us, and be thankful it's not worse. Nice place you got here, but what's the point?

Jesse would have loved this discussion.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Gaining control

A little. They say that having kids is like having your heart walk around outside your body. Losing a child is major surgery without anesthesia. When I was pregnant with Jesse, someone told me that you have to forget about the pain of childbirth or you'd never have another child. But I think you also have to forget how painful it is to lose anyone you love or you wouldn't make it to the next loss. This is like going through labor every day, with no new baby on the other side, just another morning of awful realization.

I can make it through most of the day with distractions, now. I save it all for the walk to work. Signs of spring physically hurt: flowering magnolias are sharper than knives. I walk every morning through a park Jesse and his brother played in when they were little. I'm used to it now, but the sight of new grass on the central lawn breaks my heart. I wonder how long it takes that deep, animal part of your brain to accept that your child is really gone. Because I understand it intellectually-- he's not coming back. He's not going to be mad that we moved his stuff out of his closet, or changed the room. I'd give anything for that fine indignation again.