Friday, December 4, 2009

Shadows

Many people talk about how when they were young they had an invisible playmate. The friend they could count on when no one else was available to help corral wild ponies or create delectable mud pies or to save the earth from certain, imminent catastrophe. Perhaps it was for the more mundane, a buddy to share a bowl of Cheerios with, someone to sit next to while taking in an episode of Tom and Jerry, a friendly ear to bend on a long cross country car ride. Invisible friends always laugh at the right parts in movies, they never interrupt or argue and they are always, there.
I never had an invisible friend. I had 2 brothers and 1 sister, a myriad of dogs, cats, gerbils and guinea pigs and an entire neighborhood, well stocked with kids of all ages and both genders, to keep a growing girl busy. Truthfully, I never really understood the whole concept of an imaginary playmate. I never felt the need to invent or create another character to fill in a blank in my life.

But I have one now.

It only recently occurred to me that that is what Caleb has become to me. He is my invisible reality. I take him everywhere. Sometimes I don't even realize he has come along. He pops into my head seemingly from out of nowhere and hangs out for a while before disappearing into the depths of my soul.
He is truly invisible in that he has no image in my mind. I don't see him as a baby or a child. I can't picture him in my minds eye. His presence is enormous and yet I can not describe him in any way. I do not see him. I feel him.
I don't often talk about Caleb in real life. If he comes up at all it is more about the 'event' than about him. It's not as though people when finding out you have a stillborn child, ask you what your hopes or dreams were for that child. They don't ask what he looked like or how his kicks felt and they can't ask about his laugh or his cry because he never had the chance to have either. And later, years later, they can't ask what's new with your dead child because, obviously, nothing has changed. I suppose to the outside world he really is just something that happened to me. He is not real to most people.
In many ways I am to blame for that. I have held him so close and refused to share him with anyone in any meaningful way for so long that he has slipped farther and farther away into the past. I don't do anything to mark either his due date or the day he died. I don't bake cakes, or release balloons, light candles or release butterflies. My mom and dad bring flowers over every year to mark the date he was born but even then, we never talk about him. And really, I prefer it that way. I don't want to go 'there' anymore. I don't want to feel as sad as I do when I think about him, outloud.
So instead, I have wrapped him up and packed him away from everyone. His ashes sit on a shelf in our bedroom below a piece of card stock imprinted with his tiny hand and foot prints. No one sees him but us.
And yet.
I carry him with me always. I don't have silent conversations with him but I do have quiet moments with him. Quiet moments without him. With.out.him.

Life goes on, without him. I can't picture him in this life of mine in anyway other than how he is now, gone from it. I can't see him as a two year old, not even when I look at his cousin with whom he was supposed to share his birth week. When I see her and try to picture him with her, all I see is, nothing. A black hole of vacant space that should have been filled by a child. But isn't. When I hold Cason in my arms and look into his eyes, it chills me to my core to even think of him not being here, to try and picture another child here in his place. I remember when Cason was born, the moment I held him I thought to myself I can't ever think about wanting Caleb here again because then I will be wishing Cason wasn't here. I knew then that I had to let him go but it was one of the most painful moments of my life and time has not made it any easier.
I hate thinking like that. God, I hate it.
My life is what it is now. I don't have him here. I can't change that. I know that. But still, he is here. In the only way he can be. In my mind. On the corners of conversations. In words unspoken and in the newly planted flowers that bloom in my garden.
And on any given day, when I am driving in my car, my children in various seats beside and behind me, laughing or fighting, crying or sleeping, I can look into my rear view mirror and there in the periphery, I see him.
A shadow in the back seat. My imaginary playmate.
Caleb.

14 comments:

ezra'smommy said...

This is beautiful, and resonates so clearly with me.

Sophie said...

Resonates with me as well. Thankyou. I feel very similarly. I don't think of Jordan as being two either. Somehow I just can't go there. I see a black hole too.

I like the imagery of the imaginary friend. You're right. It does feel like that.

xx

Molly said...

This post explains a lot of how I feel about my son's death as well. I don't even know how to talk about him since I didn't ever know him and I see a black hole too. Hugs to you.

angie said...

This is just gorgeous. I also can't imagine Lucy as anything but what she was and is now. I am somehow incapable of visualizing her, or conjuring an imaginary future for her. She is just a baby that never was child. *sigh* XO

Michele said...

This spoke to me so clearly. I cant look at Bobby and Maya and wish for a different life. That life would mean life without them. I look and know the Nick and Sophie would be two, that Alex would be one, and that life would be so different... But with one I lose the other. It's such a contradiction. It hurts to think about.

Heather said...

The imaginary friend analogy is perfect. You're right, that's exactly how it feels.

Rosalind said...

I like this ...you always know how to put into words exactly what I'm feeling and wouldn't know how to express..Thanks

Hope's Mama said...

Perfect post, K@lakly. This all hit home with me. With a thud.
She's just always there.
xo

G$ said...

I feel similiar, especially now. He is always there, isn't he?

Fireflyforever said...

Just ... yes. I GET this. A beautifully expressed post.

Ya Chun said...

I can't imagine what life would have been like with Serenity, but her absence is always felt.

She is less than imaginary, because I can't imagine her.

Thank you for writing this.

CLC said...

You speak my mind. Well not exactly as in I have never thought of Hannah as an imaginary friend, but she is always with me in that I am always thinking of her.

Thank you for this awesome post.

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

Beautiful.

I feel a need to always protect my invisible friend because she hears everything others say (or don't say) about her.

Peace.

Catherine W said...

I think they are always there, on the periphery. I always have a feeling that, if only I could turn around quick enough, I would catch a glimpse of my other daughter. I think I see her at other ages but perhaps that is because she was a twin. It is hard to see her twin sister grow up without imaginging just a little.

You have described the tension between your love for Cason and your love for Caleb so beautifully. And that feeling of protectiveness. xo