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Monday, May 23, 2016

Grief and being closed

Open, closed. Open, closed. Open, closed. Like a heart expanding and filling, then contracting and emptying, it’s the way I am moving through the world. For brief periods of time, I open to be in the company of others. And other times--most of the time--I shrink into myself, my tiny, isolated world of words and stacks of photos from when my son was alive. I am open; I am closed. I am open; I am closed.

Right now I am closed.

mother grief
A rainbow lands on Riley's art
As I lie in bed and sense the afternoon sun, a finger of light lands on my index finger like tiny hummingbird feather. I try to feel it. I want it to be warm and weighted like my boy’s hand. I search myself to remember what my son’s hand feels like. I held it thousands of times without much consideration. Why didn’t I pay more attention? I can picture his little boy hand with dimpled knuckles. I can picture his middle-schooler hand with gnawed cuticles, the places where the skin had torn and bled. I can see his rounded fingertips, his nails so short from the constant nibbling. I remember the reddish blue nail beds. I so often look for that color on other children’s hands, but it’s not a color readily available on the playground or in C’s classroom. I cannot see it anywhere. That feather of light taps my skin. Hello Riley, I say to him.

In February, I was open.

I mustered the wherewithal to be open, to reach out and do the simple things that most people do without an internal battle--I got a haircut, I went for a walk, I had coffee with a friend. But then, like a scared turtle, I pulled my head back inside my protective shell to hide again. Maybe it was because April was so very heavy. There were too many things at once to make sense of.

Riley’s 13th birthday appeared on the calendar. My brain cannot seem to reconcile that he is now two different ages at the same time.

My stepson turned 12. How can the boy who is exactly one year and two weeks younger than Riley be older than Riley?

Another mathematical milestone demanded that we recognize that 18 months have been endured without him. 

My stepdaughter was in the ER and then having surgery at the same hospital where Riley exhaled for the last time. I 
even sat for a period of time in the same pre-op room where I last heard my Riley's voice. I love you too, mom, it said.

And so I am closed.

my child died
Riley in Bubblegum Alley
That list of reasons is me trying to apply logic to this illogical reality. I figure if I can point to things, it will explain the latest crying, the way I am avoiding friends. Another school year is winding down without him... Add that to the list. When I examine the cumulation of all of those things, it makes sense. Only it will never really make sense. I vividly recall school beginning, the mandatory first-day-of-school photos, minus one. The calendar is turning without him; the children are growing taller, the notches on the door frame inching up while he will forever be his height on his half birthday just nine days before that surgery that was supposed to fix everything. 

The leaves fall, they grow back and shade the patio, they fall and grow back again. They don’t know how to live another way. I don’t know how to live this way. And so I curl into myself, I crumple, and fall to the ground.

One day I imagine I will open again. I will be in the company of my safe people. In the meantime, I will talk to the light tapping my finger. I will concentrate on giving that light a feeling so that it will be like his hand holding mine, feeling his boy skin on my skin. And then it vanishes. The patch of light leaves me all alone with my broken heart, contracting and emptying.