Saturday, August 22, 2009
This boy, he came into our lives at the end of a nine month long pregnancy. Came flying out into the world. This boy, he ran and ran and ran. He talked and talked and talked. He honed his skill of balance, of running, of holding on, of pirate talk, of swordplay, of never letting on that he was on a sinking ship. Seven Saturdays ago, Pablo's ship did sink. If we can call his physical body his ship, it sank. At the end of one helluva fight with an unspeakably unfair foe, Pablo opened his eyes two final times, screaming 'SAY SOMETHING!' and 'I WANT MOMMY!' and then stopped breathing. Just like that. I wish I had too. Jo Ann wishes she had too.
We spent as many hours with his still body as we thought appropriate. When the white van came to take him away to the cemetery gates, I picked him up in my arms. With his mommy and his brother as my guides, as his guards, we ascended the stairs where Pablo learned to sail + fly + jump + thump his body every which way. We took the 17 steps—counted countless times by Pablo—to the top and made our way outside. Our family, our complete entire family, one last time.
If you were the projectionist in my head, you'd have seen that reel over and over and over and over since Saturday June 27 2009. Over and over and over and over. And over. At the end of each reel, you'd hear my anguished wonder: how could you let him go? How the F*** could you let him go? The white van. Wrapped in his favorite blanket. The gurney. The nice man and his heartfelt condolences. The toe tag. My little boy's sweet, still body. His face. His eyebrows. His hair. Trying to come back, but too late. Sean standing guard in the street. Peter protecting and directing us, specifying our wishes to the man in the van.
If you were the projectionist in my head, you'd have seen that there was a second gurney in the van. It didn't have anyone's name on it. I could have laid down on it. I could have gone too.
¶ Coming home from the coffee shop this morning, I pulled up in front of our temporary residence, the home of our next door neighbors James and Vanessa. Got out of the car. Stopped. Didn't want to. Didn't plan to. There I was, staring at Jo Ann's car in front of our home. 'That's about where the white van was,' I thought to myself. 'That's where we gave Pablo away.' As I turned away and made for J+V's side door a rush of thoughts came over me. One of them: How could I give away my son's body? Another: What if someone had been walking by when we brought him outside? And another: What is life? What is body? What are we? Our laughter? Our footsteps? Our stillness? Our love?
We are definitely our love. We are that most precious emotion which is best experienced when given away.
What Jo Ann and Grady and I miss the most about Pablo—and sometimes what we can't remember the most about him—is his laughter, the way he held us, the way we kissed him, the physical ways in which we expressed our love and to-the-death-devotion. And his love for us.
Love. There it is.
There it is.
To the death.
Til the day you die.
Draw a line to each of those.
Now write the letters P - A - B - L - O.
Connect the three lines with his name.
I do this a hundred times a day with dozens of words, phrases, cliches, gilded emotional mementos.
Words. I ask them what they mean. I demand that they sit up straight and say what they mean. I demand that they do a better job meaning what they say. All these lazy words hanging around in our heads, in our lives, in the air between us. Pablo's absence is becoming a filter that I put everything through. Is it fair? Who knows. Am I going to stop? No. Nobody will ask me to stop. I will not stop if they ask.
A long time ago, I told you I don't want to be in a world that doesn't include Pablo. I was scared when I wrote that. Scared because we'd just learned of the recurrence of Pablo's cancer. It was Tuesday April 21. I was scared. So scared, I titled the post 'Shell Shocked.' The most honest words I could communicate were: I do not want to be in a world that doesn't include Pablo. My best friend was a six-year-old boy. I'd waited my whole life for him. I'd waited 31 years to meet my best friend. I was patient. I was ready to let go of the old and let in the new. I was ready to be a papa on June 21 2003. Scared? Yes, in a different sort of way. When I wrote the 'world' statement, Pablo was in the same home as me. He may have been snuggled next to me. Can't recall. But the thought of Pablo being gone, deceased, dead, was then as far from our reality as his memory is now.
A key motivator for my writing on the Pablog is to share with you my experience. Good, bad, whatever. Let me tell you something that's been eating at me. Something that's been eating at me because I've been swallowing it down, thinking you'll freak out if I share it. The cruel reality—well, one of them—of losing Pablo is this: time is dulling the sharp edges of my Pablo memories. Sometimes, when I search for 'Pablo+laughter' in my mental search engine, I come up blank. Other times, all I can recall is a time I made a mistake with him, spoke to him too sharply, apologized while he was crying under the weight of hurt feelings. The hunger for immediate connection with my son has me drifting and sifting through iPhoto at all hours. In my office on the giant iMac. At home on my laptop, or, for a different collection of pics, Jo Ann's laptop. On the few iPods in our home—all of which have random clusters of photo memories stashed in their caches.
For weeks, a Smiths lyric has been banging around in my mind. It's from the song 'Cemetery Gates.' Have I already written this? Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before. If not here's the lyric in reference: 'All those people, all those lives where are they now? With loves, and hates and passions just like mine. They were born and then they lived and then they died. Seems so unfair. I want to cry.' Morrissey's lyric also takes a stand in favor of Oscar Wilde and kicks Keats and Yeats—here comes one of Pablo's favorite phrases—right in the nuts. I'd always dreamed of instilling this kind of fight-to-the-finish literary snobbery in Pablo. As that song has danced through my mind in Venice, Florence, Paris, Rome and Wolfeboro, that's the part that drops an anchor in my heart, every time. The part I wanted to teach my son. The part about taking a stand, finding passion, kicking against the pricks.
¶ How many times did Pablo climb into a vehicle at the curb in front of our house? How many times, at first, did we carry the baby Pablo, ever carefully, and place him in his car seat? How many times did Pablo look up at a car and wish for the day he'd have the skill + strength + parental nod to climb alone? How many times did Pablo dream of making his next big step, to the front seat? Or to the driver's seat? I have wondered over and over in the past seven weeks, do your foreshadowing dreams begin to end as you near death?
Did he get a message? Did he get a sign? Is there a feeling 24 hours before you die—an indication so clear it smacks calm into the recipient? Not a secret the recipient wants to hide away, but a stillness, a self respect higher than any other. 'I'm getting off at the next stop,' you might say to yourself as you narrate the fleeting ticks and falling tocks of your final day. 'I'm getting off at the next stop,' you might say to yourself. 'Funny how everything falls away. Funny how it feels OK.'
We have been living since Wednesday at the home of our next door neighbors, James and Vanessa. I wake up six, seven times a night and look at our house from their bed. In my sleepy state, I have a gauzy thought, 'There's our house. I wonder if Pablo will come back today.' We went across the globe to get a far perspective. In most respects it worked. Coming home was treacherous. Walking back into our home, our hearts eked out pains we'd never known.
On Tuesday, when the exterminator informed us we had to move out of our home, the place where we lived with Pablo, we felt violated. A few days on, I am of a different mind about it. To see our home from 30 yards, to hear the noises of the neighborhood from a slightly different locale, to see the sights of our hood from our neighbor's windows is invigorating. To see the non-Pablo-ness of it all the way James and Vanessa might. Hard to explain. I'm hardly explaining it. Just feels different. Like it had to be. Like it is part of our path.
The week seven update boils down to this: We imagine that Pablo is around us, watching over us, observing us. In our week next door, we're sort of doing the same thing: outside looking in. Getting an unexpected perspective. Painful and odd. But part of the path.
at 8:05:00 AM