We are approaching six months since Benjamin died, and every day I am learning new lessons. Some days I cannot move, and some days I find it easy to feel joy, to see beauty in a way I never saw it before. Most days I wonder what is real, and how time can be such an illusionist. And still, every single day, I fantasize about golden curls walking around the corner, like nothing ever happened.
Today, I was busy preparing for tomorrow’s trip to Wisconsin, which begins a vacation centered around picking Banyan up from Camp Highlands. I knew that his absence these last three weeks would be huge. It was the first time I’ve lived in a house without children for over thirteen years. I filled the silence, out of intention and necessity, with music and hard work. The result: what was once a room for two sweet, delicious little boys, is now a room for one wonderful, deserving adolescent. It is a space of his own, that honors his brother, but that allows him to grow into the man that awaits.
One of the final errands I had to check off of my list found me in a retail store. A little boy was hiding among the racks, and he popped out like a firework to garner the attention of his indifferent mother. She didn’t react. His face fell. “I wanted to surprise you,” he said. She replied, too quickly, “Well, don’t.” The resilience that accompanies children of his age toughened him, and he paused. “Can I surprise you again?” he asked, carefully. “No,” was the curt, cold response.
After nearly six months, I have honed the ability to grieve privately; to carry the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes to a secluded place. But this boy’s little voice and this mother’s apathy was too much for me. I wondered how many moments of Benji’s life I wasted with such distraction and numbness. I hoped that the moments I gave my focus and love to his hopeful, eager face far outweighed moments in which I did not. But mostly, I longed for one more surprise. One more chance to show him how much I appreciated his existence. The nearness of him. Him.
I decided to put these thoughts here, tonight, because many kind folks have asked about my writing recently. (First of all, I acknowledge completely that I am not a very good friend right now. I find that I have nearly zero mental capacity to give. It makes my appreciation that much deeper for those who have stuck with me through these strange weeks, months, years. Thank you.) I have been writing quite a bit, but privately. Fragments of something I hope will take shape into a long form piece of work. I invested in a writing workshop for the fall, with a teacher I know and admire, to keep me accountable to this goal. Regardless of the end result, I know that disciplined writing is a means to a certain kind of salvation for me. Through some bit of magic, during the process of writing it out, I find the gratitude. I find the joy. I continue.
I look forward to our trip up north, into the woods that Banyan has learned so well. I look forward to seeing his sweet face, to reuniting with his real, human body. I’m so thankful he’s here.
Taking a trip like this feels different now. Excursions away from home immediately after Benjamin died made me feel achingly guilty. As if I was leaving him behind. Now, I enter these days with a certain spark. I feel like we are taking him with us. Where there is love, there is our boy. So there we go.