Grady, Jo Ann and I at dinner tonight—Georges, atop the Pompidou Musee.
We all miss Pablo. Even when we're excited about seeing a fave Pablo Picasso painting in person for the first time. Jo Ann wept at the sight of some Picasso pieces in the National Picasso Musee—one or two that specifically reminded her of our Pablo, whom we miss like hell. Even when we're navigating our way through a series of out-of-the-way Paris side streets—amazed that we're actually making our way, just as we are amazed that we made our way through the soul-shredding episode of Pablo's treatment. Even when we are—and this is the hardest part—laughing or relaxing into happiness. ('How can I be happy?' I always think to myself.)
At dinner this evening, we began our feelings check-in. We made a commitment at the start of this trip to take time out twice a day to stop and come together. Racing through a city eating and shopping and sightseeing while aching from the heart does not constitute real communication about what's going on inside. What's going on inside all of us is the same thing, and sharing our feelings, memories, observations about ourselves and one another with one another is helpful. So, as we picked at our entrees at Georges, the restaurant atop Du Centre Pompidou, the famous Paris modern art museum, the discussion began.
Each of us had observed another in a Pablo trance. Grady saw me looking at a boy about Pablo's age last night at dinner. A cutely-attired Pablo-sized mannequin in the front window of a clothing shop caught Grady's eye, and mine, and we both saw one another seeing it. On Rue de Rivoli today Jo Ann slowed and stopped at the window of a bookseller. Inside was a big display of Le Petit Prince books. I saw her looking at it and didn't say anything. I could say anything at any time to Jo Ann. But she stepped away from the window without acknowledging what she saw, and the moment slipped away. For the first ever time, I didn't know what to say to my wife. So I let the moment continue to slip away, knowing we'd talk about it later. Sometime.
Grady is very clear when he talks about Pablo. He says he thinks about him constantly. He's either thinking about him every second, or every minute. Tonight, he told Jo Ann and I that when we're off doing something on our own, he feels lonely. At those moments, he realizes that for the past six years he's always played with Pablo while his parents have been in the other room talking or working or reading or whatever. And now it's just him. He told us those moments are saddening for him. It brings his grief into full bore.
We all talked about guilt. Mostly about times we put Pablo off to do something else—like finishing a task for a few minutes, making Pablo wait to play a game he was eager to play with us. Before the conversation got too deep, Jo Ann pulled back. I said that no matter what, in any situation, with any two people, there will be scenarios that can cause guilt. And there's no positive end to it—and certainly to usefulness to it.
Jo Ann and Grady are sleeping as I write this, so I can't get their input on what I'm about to say. Surely, their list of specific things they miss about Pablo would be as long as mine. Surely I will write these things when they tell me.
I miss Pablo's hands—he was always holding my hand, always wanting to put his fingers between mine. We called that 'fingers in.'
I miss putting on Pablo's shoes. He'd sit on the top stair in our front hallway. He'd pick out his shoes—he always knew which pair he wanted to wear—and he'd usually throw a few steps below me. He'd always laugh. I sometimes laughed with him, and sometimes got frustrated.
I miss snuggling with Pablo at night. We had a going-to-bed ritual: he'd pick out a book (for him, it meant five), jump in bed, curl up into me, kiss me goodnight, then I'd read to him. My logic with the kiss before the story was: if he fell asleep during the story, I wouldn't miss kissing my son goodnight. I truly loved every minute of the tuck-ins. And many nights, it would take 45 minutes or an hour.
I miss our patois. Our rhyming and linguistic scheming. Every day I think of things we used to say to one another. Our own little language. Things I can't use with other people. People who aren't Pablo. 'Hungry like a mungry' is one of them. See? What would you say if I said to you, 'Dude, I'm hungry like a mungry!' Pablo knew. He'd say something like, 'Me like a la shoo!' This is one of the rawest pieces for me, the place I miss him so so so deeply. I think it's cos I was not an adult or a parent when we were in this place. I was a kid. I was with Pablo, where he was.
I miss being a Papa. I loved being Pablo's Papa. I was just getting good at it. Pablo and I had this special bond ripped from the flesh of our palms. Lots of words and sentiments in the neighborhood of anguish, anger and angst rise up when I center my intellect and my emotional self on this particular volcano of hurt.
Walking around Paris in July, everywhere, there are parents and kids. Outwardly, I don't relate to people who are Dutch, German, Polish, Turkish. They speak a different language. They are often red in the face from the sun in a lower latitude. Inwardly, I relate a hundred percent to the Norwegian dad and his kids. To the Belgian dude and his daughter. To the older gentleman from Holland and his two grown sons sitting in a cafe after the Tour de France finish. And even deeper, in that place we call the soul, I want to disintegrate. I want to dis-integrate. Fascinating to pull that word apart. And it's exactly how I felt seeing my Dutch cafe mate yesterday. Why? Because he was in his 60s, sitting with his two sons in their 30s. And I will never have that with Pablo and Grady. I can only have that with Grady. Pablo will be with us, but not in the flesh.That tears at the ties that bind me to humanity, to life, to wanting...anything.
I can only tell the story as it is actually happening. And this is how it is for me, for us, today.
Speaking of today, it's time for me to end 27 July 2009. Time for me to admit that the day is over, and I need rest. Tomorrow at noon we leave France and fly to Venice. We'll be in Italy for nearly two weeks. Can't wait.