Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No More Christmas Presents for My Leif

This January 1976 photo of Leif playing with the rocking horse he got for Christmas 1975, his first Christmas when he was eleven months old, and so many other Christmas photos of him opening presents or joking around with the family through the years, bring it home to me so forcefully that he won't be here to open any gifts this year, or any year from now to the end of our lives. I don't look for presents for him any more, though I can't help but notice and remark upon things I know he would like, things I wish I could give him.

The holidays and his birthday are particularly hard, as are the monthly reminders, each 9th and 10th, of his death and the day we found him. Tomorrow it will be 20 months since we found him in his apartment. Today it is 20 months since he died. Sometimes I wonder how long I will mark the months that have passed since his death, wonder if I will ever pass those days of the month without remembering. How can the months fly by so fast, taking the time we were with him ever farther into our past, yet the memories seem like yesterday, like he could still just walk through our door.

At a party a couple of nights ago, I hugged a neighbor who lost two children. She asked me how I was doing and I truthfully answered that I was all right most of the time, but not all of it. She said, "It never really gets any easier. You just learn to cope with it. The holidays are the hardest. Even though I have my living son and grandchildren, I will always miss the others. You just have to put on a smile and go on."

Sometimes the smile is real. Sometimes it's a good act.

I'm grateful to have a lot to do, to be busy with real work. It doesn't take away all the sadness but it does keep it at arm's length a good part of the time. It does make me feel useful.

But, it doesn't stop me from thinking, in the interstices, of the eternal question, why? of what we might have done to save him, of what he might have done to save himself, of what we are missing, of what he is missing, of what might have been.

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