I have told many friends how peaceful and still I felt in the week between Pablo's seventh birthday and the one year anniversary of his death. Something inside me shifted. The knot in my gut that accompanies me every day relaxed and, for a brief run of days, there was more room inside me. Having a break from the knot felt good—particularly because it's back again.
What I don't tell anyone is that, mostly, I'm still hiding out. People look at me with question marks in their eyes. Before they even say 'How are you?' The emphasis on that one word—are—is the expression of true compassion. To me, it often feels like an obligation to reveal more than I am able to. Sometimes, I don't know how I am. Or I don't care how I am. Most days, I just want to fuel myself with four shots of espresso, so I don't have to worry about creating my own energy. Foolish, and a very short term game, I know, but I do it every day. I'll know things are changing with me when I avoid uber-doses of caffeine.
Last night in the car, Jo Ann and I were talking about Pablo. She said the phrase 'Pablo's final breath.' My chest tightened. My eyes filled with tears. Tears streamed down my face. My brain wondered, 'Will it always be this way? What is the point of anything anymore?' My intellect has gotten good at positing such questions. Lately, my intellect has been good for landing I've begun to resonate peacefully on a thin piece of intellectual real estate: I think of Pablo, and I think of peace, and calm and serenity. And for a brief moment it all feels OK.
The thought of Pablo, the physical Pablo, is now so far away that I have to watch videos of him to refuel the little bits of him. Of course, I remember the many giant swaths of personality that he exuded every day. The mind tends to focus on the 'greatest hits' of someone's personality. The memories gather around the sweetest, cutest, funnest moments. Harder to remember is the feeling of my son's hand on my chest; how he held me when we'd fall asleep in his bed, and how he'd reach out for me when I'd attempt to slip out and go on with my night; the way he'd push my eyelids up in the morning, asking 'Papa, are you awake?' Every day, I try to remember some of those deeper memories. I've found that they're stored in a second compartment that is easy to access, but could also easy to lose touch with.
On the topic of memories:
Today, Jo Ann and I got an email from the mother of an old playmate of Pablo's. The family moved to another neighborhood a while back, and the mother had heard of Pablo's cancer from a mutual friend. Her note is sweet, referencing fun times Pablo had with her son at Silver Lake Park. In the note, our old friend noted that while she has vivid memories of Pablo, her son doesn't remember Pablo and his days at the park very well anymore.
On first reading, I felt like someone had thrown another gallon of kerosene on the fire of anguish that's been burning in my gut for a year and a day. Those tears from last night came flooding back. That one word—anymore—softened the focus on Pablo even more. But then I read the sentence again. And again. None of the words hurt as much on the fourth read. Pablo is gone, I thought to myself. This is OK. This is the way it is. Then I remembered: Pablo had friends he didn't remember from his early years. We would have to describe an old playmate of his, and sometimes he'd feign a memory of a kid. I could tell.
Something in our old friend's letter turned my heart toward acceptance. Can't put my finger on it, but I know acceptance when it's flowing in my veins. So I'm grateful for the note.