I've kept busy. Have you seen me? I'm sure you have. It seems I have a new project every day. I don't understand how they're getting done, but they are. Only part of me participates, and it's the unconscious part. The real me floats somewhere above the noise and watches as actual "living" takes place. I often think, "How is she doing that? WHY is she doing that?" It's like watching a play, and in this particular show the character is awfully "busy."
I tried to buy you a Christmas gift. In years past it was difficult but sort of a welcome salve on an open wound. This year is different. I found what I thought was the perfect gift, but as I reached for it, something inside me broke. The busy woman fell silent and the wounded woman stepped forward. What if I only thought this was the perfect gift? I realized in that moment that I was buying a present for my two year old. But, what if my 4 year old had moved on from cows and Mickey Mouse? Shouldn't I know that? Shouldn't I at least get to see your Christmas list? Or maybe you are still two. Maybe you've remained my forever baby. Maybe I'm supposed to buy for both? I should get gifts that my clumsy toddler would have tossed around, as well as presents that my four year old would shove in his backpack to show his preschool friends. I don't know how a mother is supposed to go from knowing every breath to the uncertainty of something as simple as a shoe size.
I thought about that again when I got home and collapsed on the floor. I raced into the bathroom to see if your Sesame Street toothbrush was still hanging where I'd left it. It was there. The little cow holder still held the dust that's collected there from lack of use. I don't know what I expected to find. Maybe I thought if it had fallen on its own that it meant that you'd moved on from Elmo and "moos." Maybe I thought that seeing it there in its forever home would solidify that my baby is frozen in time. His hair still the same length, the creases in his pudgy hands still just as I'd seen them on that last day when I traced them with my finger. Or maybe, just maybe I actually expected to see you there, sitting in your spot on the sink and splashing in the water. Sometimes I absolutely believe that will happen. The rational adult is silenced and the hopeful child looks with anticipation and longing for someone who will never show. I don't know how long that lasts, or how often I'll have to feel the sting of reality, but as much as that moment cuts me, I thank that part of me that forgets for the briefest moment that the whole of my being exists in a veritable Hell on earth.
As I crawl through the next month, I hope you know that the moments that look like living do not mean that I've forgotten. I can't forget. The pain is part of my existence. It's stained on my soul. I will buy the cows. I will buy the show and tell toys. They will go to sick children whose parents still get to fight for them. Next year, perhaps I'll buy something for a Kindergartner. And a few years down the road, maybe you'll get your first tie for the man that you should have been. But I'll always buy the cow. I'll always make sure to save a "moo" for the baby I held one last time. I will never know for sure which gift fits, and that's a pain I'll carry for the rest of my life, but at least they'll be under the tree. At least they'll be wrapped and tagged just as are the gifts for your siblings. They'll be my reminder that it's ok to slow down and notice. It's ok to stop and cry for the boy who can't tell me which gift he prefers. They'll remind me that while "busy" is happening, "broken" is always right around the corner waiting to be heard.