My sister came to town with her two year old, who looked so much like Jesse at birth that it kinda scared the family. My sister was pregnant when Jesse died, spent a week alone at the loft before heading home, and gave birth two days after my birthday. Fortunately, baby is starting to look like her own unique self now, so spending a couple of days alone with her while sis went to a weekend conference wasn't awful or sad, but lovely and new. I took her to the playground in Washington Square Park, that Jesse and his brother grew up in (literally)--she channeled Jesse's personal blend of social grace toward peers and anti-adult rebellion perfectly, protesting pretty much every moment that we weren't out to "see kids," and only willing to leave when all the other kids had vanished at sunset.
I don't know why that caused my heart to crash, dammit.
Mr. Nomist had planned to come home from visiting his mom that Saturday, but her doctor visit changed that all too drastically. My mother in law has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. This happens to all my mothers-in-law, apparently. When Jesse's dad died, the family sent him a copy of the autopsy at his college address. The existence of a certain type of cell that happens to have been named for Alzheimer scared the hell out of him, which prompted a call to mom. Don't worry, honey, it's not the same thing. Nothing to worry about.
As it turned out, he never had to find out at all.
On these last few walks to work, I've started crying again. It's spring, right around the time my dad died. I wonder if Jesse still loved the outdoors as he once did. Another season he will miss. Can you hear me? I say out loud, in the park, as I walk by Chester A. Arthur.If you can hear me, baby, please know that I love you. I miss you. I'm sorry. Please let me know you can hear me. Let me know you're ok.
And then I tell myself how foolish that is. Think about it: we spend our lives developing empathy, learning what it really means that each person who has ever lived has their own internal world that is exactly like and completely different from our own; we learn ways to appreciate it in others, respect it, ignore it, use it, understand it. But we can never really breach it. The gulf between ourselves and others. Not even with love. You can only show your love, make a verb of it, you can't just throw it across that chasm of self and self. You can never know for sure that anyone you love feels the same way you do. All you can know is their responses.
Love is about the person feeling it. It's about what you feel toward the other person. Even when they are gone, or they don't love you, or they hurt you, your love is your responsibility, your state, the product of your internal world. No one can make you stop or start loving. You can't make them feel your love, only the results of it. And you can't feel theirs, except as it becomes actions. So what of the dead? Your relationship with them, your love, doesn't stop. It feels as if they are still with you. You will not stop interacting with your memory of them. Even though there is no way to show them anything, to know you have reached them with your love.
Last night, after a rare and well, idiosyncratic seder with friends, I dreamed (blame the tzimmes I suppose), that I was walking back up from the park. So realistic I could feel my shoes on the sidewalk, the cold and damp; it was overcast. As I reached the southeast corner of 8th Street, Jesse came racing toward me on his old Razor scooter, looking just like he did the year before I lost him, pulled up in front of me, smiled and said, "here's your blue eyed boy!" And when I stopped, disbelieving, he said it again, I'm your blue eyed boy! And then he dropped the scooter, and took me in his arms and gave me a hug I could still feel when I woke up.
Listen: I don't know if I think the dead hear us. I don't know if I think it's something in me doing this. But whatever it is, I need it. And I will ask for it whenever the days get too hard to face without him.