Who You’d Be, Sixth Birthday Edition

Big Days Suck . . . that was the original title of this post.

As my compassionate friends have told me, the build-up to The Day is sometimes worse than The Day itself.  For me, that’s often true.

Last week, I posted this to Facebook:

So I just wished a friend happy birthday. He’s 68 today and a good man. My message started with “Happy birthday, Jack.”

My Jack would have been six next Thursday.

Just damn.

Pro tip: remember to bring your valium to work near significant dates.

In my FB post, I originally put that Jack would have been five.  In a comment, Mrs. New John tactfully reminded me that he would actually have been six.  For many reasons, this made it worse; I was useless for the next few hours.

I had already begun thinking about what Jack would be like today, but I was imagining a five-year-old.  As anyone with recent experience with children will remember, a year makes a world of difference at that age.  Jack at five would have been a wonderful child.  At six, he would have been that much more interesting and complex and fun and special and beautiful.

I’ve often written about a continuum of grief; a scale on which, depending on how old your child was when they died, you fall into mourning their lost potential or missing the reality that they were.  Even if you are at an extreme end of the spectrum (miscarriage or seeing your child live into old age while you are older still), all parents feel at least a little of both.

I’m mostly on the “lost potential” side of things since Jack was only three and a half.  This means that, when I allow myself, I spend less time remembering things and more time thinking of how he would have developed as a person and what we would do together.

  • I’d take him to another baseball game and to tons more hockey games.
  • I’d watch him develop a love for reading and writing and science and life.
  • I’d play with him, making bigger and better castles in life and in games.
  • I’d hold him when he was sick, kiss his boo-boos when he scraped his knees.
  • I’d make him grilled cheese sandwiches or hot dogs with some chips and a glass of kool-aid.
  • I’d teach him martial arts and how to throw a frisbee and working out.
  • I’d discover his interests and passions and help him pursue them.

This list could go on forever.  I could sit here for days writing about the things I’ve thought of that I wish I could do with him.

This, as you might expect, makes me sad.  It’s what derailed me last week.

Part of the trouble is that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried for Jack.

Even though I know it would only be temporary, and that I wouldn’t be risking anything by doing so, I can’t just let myself fall apart.  That’s just not part of who I am . . . but I wish it were.

want to cry for him.  I want to let it all go and just bawl my freaking eyes out, curling up as small as I can, feeling like I’ll just let myself unravel and damn it all to hell.

That’s what I want but, so far, cannot have.  It makes me feel like I am cheating him and not doing it right.  I know that’s not true, but it doesn’t matter: I feel that way.

Someday, it will happen.  It’s inevitable.  I can feel that, too.  I just hope next year’s birthday post is different.

Sweet dreams, my little guy.  I love you.

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2 responses to “Who You’d Be, Sixth Birthday Edition

  1. My heart aches for you and Mrs. New Jack. I cannot imagine the hell that it is to lose a child, nor to I let myself because even if I get close to imagining something happening to Dylan, when we have those “you could have died” moments when my knees get weak, I still don’t let myself totally go there. I feel helpless and usually in these cases, I just keep my stupid mouth shut because I never say the right things! I’m a total goof when it comes to appropriate responses on the important things, but in this case, since you know my heart is in the LOVE YOU BOTH place, I am reaching out to hug you virtually.
    I can relate to your not crying but wishing you could. I don’t cry. I just don’t. It’s not that my heart isn’t totally breaking. I still grieve for my father, even though he was old and his body was slowly failing and his death was merciful. I still miss him. But, I never cried. Sometimes a silly sappy movie or commercial will make me cry and that makes me mad because I can’t cry for the meaningful things. Maybe it’s because I am like you…. that if I let that dam break, that I will not be able to recover. I don’t know.
    Anyway, dear friend, I am glad you are finding a way to share. It’s important and we are listening and sending you love.

    • uh crap, I meant Mrs. New John. See, I told you I am a stupid responder.

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