June 12, 2002
I went to bed last night after midnight, and awoke this morning at 6:25. Typically, I go up to make coffee, as I did this morning. The confusion starts as I look out the kitchen window, or at the table, or all different places and remember that you are not in our house anymore. I make strange crying noises, whines, barking noises, howling like a far off coyote, even noises that sound like chuckling. Sometimes I remember something in particular, like this morning the tears began when I remembered that today is seven weeks since I last saw you alive. I pour my coffee and start back to the other room, stopping at your bedroom for another morning shock. Your room is always so neat and tidy now. Your presence is still there in a way, but it’s obvious that you didn’t play in there the night before.
Usually, I try not to make too much noise as I go down the stairs, since mom and Ms. Erin are still sleeping. Usually, I fail. It just wells up and spews forth, as unavoidable as puking when the need arises. I realize all of the little things that are not as I want them to be, you in bed or on the floor in your blankets. I always walked so carefully through the room in the morning to make sure that in the dark I wasn’t stepping on you. I don’t pick you up to help you stagger to your drunken morning pee, holding you up almost all the way sometimes. Telling you over and over, “Come on, Buddy, pull down your pants, and go pee pee in the toilet. Hold your penis and… oh, Buddy, you’re peeing all over the place. OK, come on, you can get back in bed with your Mama now”, your arms reaching up and around my neck. I don’t think you were awake ever when I took you to pee. You slept so, so soundly. The only thing that would wake you, sometimes, is me asking you if you wanted to come up and have breakfast with me.
I used to love to take naps every day. Now I don’t usually take a nap. I think waking up once a day seems like enough. I like the sleep part, but becoming reacquainted with the reality of your absence is so hard to stomach. My mind wants me to know it, sometimes. There’s a part of me that keeps forgetting, but then another part that likes to slap me back out of my denial with an image of you in the hospital, or you in your tuxedo, laying in the box, with lots of gel in your hair and your beautiful, cold hands. I sometimes think that we should have really made sure you were gone in the hospital before we walked away in horror. Are we really absolutely sure that you were not in that little tattered body? Then I remember your mom saying, “He’s not in there”, through her tears, and watching the machines, and then you, and then the machines, and then you again, touching your distended belly, and your feet, and telling you we love you, and then looking up again at the machines, and then seeing that flat line. It is true, it is true, I tell myself, and then cry some more. Then I think, again, “How are you sure it is true”?
I remember all the thoughts and questions I’d have while studying Metaphysics and Epistemology. What is real? Philosophers through the ages have attempted to answer that question, and right now I can’t remember the details about who decided what. I just sit and think, “Yes, in a sense, this is real, but only in this reality.” Perhaps the waking reality I am experiencing now is only a tiny bit of the whole of Reality. It’s all part of my denial, and yet it is valid. And maybe these thoughts about this waking reality, of living in the world, in our home, in Azalea Park, in San Diego, in California, in the United States of America, in the North American continent, in the Northern Hemisphere, on planet earth, in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the Universe… maybe they are only a small bit of what if really Real. This is, however, the world I have lived in for quite a number of seconds, and minutes, and hours, and days, and months, and years. I’m used to it in many ways. And now, I’m used to you being in it with me, and being so happy you are in it. But you’re not. I don’t know exactly where you are, but I am definitely not seeing you in bed next to mom in the morning, nor are you on the floor sleeping so deeply, nor are you in the shower with mom. I hear her talking to you and crying while she showers, and she even gives you a shower and says, “OK, Jamie, go ask your Daddy to help you dry off and get dressed. Your clothes are on the bed.” She says it out loud, but you don’t come out. I don’t towel dry your hair in this reality, nor do you say, “Ow, that’s too hard”. I don’t blow-dry your hair, being careful not to burn you, nor do I help you brush it. I can’t smell the baby oil on your skin that your mom always so generously applied. I don’t do all these little things. Hugging you in my mind is not as satisfying as really holding you.
I remember hugging you. Sometimes, I’d get down in a crouching position, so I could look right at you. I’d put my hands on either side of your face, pushing the hair back a little bit, so I could see every possible bit of your handsome countenance. We’d kiss each other. I remember sometimes wondering if you’d ever outgrow kissing me on the lips, and hoping you wouldn’t. I never really outgrew it with my own Dad, who was always giving me wet sloppy ones on the lips until I was at least in my 20’s. Then I would wrap my arms around your midsection. You’d throw your arms around my neck. Sometimes I would pick you up at that point. I remember seeing us in the mirror sometimes that way, and being amazed how short the distance was becoming between your feet and the floor. I don’t remember you ever not wanting to hug me back (as Julie says in her poem “Godson”) even when you had things to do. Your hugs and kisses were some of the sweetest moments of my day. Every day.
I could keep going, but I need to get up and move my stiff and tired body around, run some hot water over it or something. I will probably get in the ocean again today, as yesterday, and ask it to wash off a little tension, and just hold me for a while.
I love you, son.