I remember that first day. I remember the feeling of dread as I walked out the doors of the hospital. I remember collapsing in front of the car, unable to open the door. I remember contemplating putting my seat belt on, and nearly simultaneously thinking, "Why does it matter?" I remember singing the whole way home with your aunt and uncle. I remember crying and laughing a thousand times. I suppose I expected some of those things, but what I didn't expect was my inability to hide from you.
We pulled into our neighborhood, and drove past all the familiar houses and trees. You remember, the ones that I used reach up and hit their leaves on our bike rides? You would laugh and kick your legs out to make me do it again. Remember the little seat you rode in, directly behind me? Remember how you used to reach up and pull my shirt up and tickle my back? I'd turn around and give you a look and you'd just smile, totally intent on doing it again. And remember the adorable little Spiderman helmet I got for you? Well, I just remember retrieving it from the road about 7 times per ride. It always boggled my mind that you wouldn't stack two blocks for me, but you'd somehow manage to Houdini yourself out of that helmet!
Then our car pulled into the driveway. This is the part that hit me hardest. I couldn't fathom walking into that house without you. Our neighbor, whom you adored, was nice enough to come over and all but carry me into the house. We walked in through the garage and I touched the plastic top of the bike helmet. Somehow we made it up the stairs to the living room. I sat in the middle of the couch right on the edge of the seat. I sat there for three straight hours without moving. I couldn't make myself leave that spot. I thought I'd be "safest" there. But, when I looked around I saw your eyes staring back at me in all the pictures.
Eventually I did move, and the walk down our very tiny hallway was one of the longest, most painful walks I've ever taken. I turned toward your room, preparing to go in, but when I looked in and saw your little shoes, your toy cow, the blankets of your crib, I stopped breathing. I couldn't go in there. Not just yet. I needed to stay "safe". But, the truth is nothing is safe. I went into the bathroom and your toothbrush still hangs there next to mine. I put my coat on and found a spare diaper in the pocket. I go into the kitchen to get a drink of water and your sippy cup falls into my hand as I open the cabinet door.
Everything had already been so hard. Why did I think this part wouldn't be? I felt like we'd been tossed into the middle of an ocean with no way out except our own determination to swim for shore. It was never easy, and sometimes we inhibited each other more than we helped. Many times all we could do was tread water. We fought and fought to reach the shore, only to discover that our "oasis" was made of quicksand. I realize now that I may never feel safe again. I understand that hard work and perseverance don't always mean victory. I know we have no more ocean to cross together, and I have to try and do this on my own. But, instead of trying to hide away from you, I find myself looking for even the tiniest glimpses of your laugh, your smell, your touch. Luckily for me, you're only everywhere.