Is it possible that I miss Charlie more than I loved him? Or is it the intensity with which I loved him that makes me miss him so much? Do I miss him more than I love him? Are they one in the same? Am I talking in circles? Is this a chicken and egg inquiry? These types of thoughts torture me. I think about Charlie all of the time. He is constantly on my mind. It doesn’t matter where I am, what I am doing, or who I am with- I am always thinking about Charlie. I know that even before he went to heaven I was amazed at the capacity with which I was able to love another person.
Before Charlie went to heaven, I remember telling anyone that would listen how much I loved him. I honestly did not know I was capable of loving anyone how I loved him. The intensity, pureness, and wholeness with which I unconditionally loved him surprised me. I felt completely secure in a relationship for the first time in my life and that’s what knocked me back about my love for Charlie. There was no chance he would ever leave me. For the first time, I had no fear of abandonment. I’ve been with Vanessa for 16 years. We have our 6 year wedding anniversary this August. Our marriage and love for each other seem to grow stronger everyday. I still think she’ll end up leaving me or kicking me out someday. I always have and probably always will. (I am a product of divorce. As most kids of divorced parents will tell you, I know I wasn’t the reason my Dad moved out. But he did move out. Gone were the everyday interactions -those “15 Second” interactions I previously wrote about- only to be replaced with visits every other weekend and my sporting events. My Mom also “left” because she had to work days as a teacher and nights as a waitress to keep us in the suburb where we grew up. So that’s where my fear of abandonment probably originates. And I’m not blaming my parents for anything. They had to do what they felt was best for them and their kids and I think they made the right decision.)
Becoming a father allowed me to start a relationship with a clean slate. I wasn’t bringing any emotional baggage or insecurities that could hold back my love for Charlie. All I brought was pure and unadulterated love for my son. He was instantly my everything. I never wanted to be away from him. I always wanted to hold him, feed him, and even change him when he was a baby. As he got older, we always wanted to be with each other. I couldn’t go anywhere without him. Everywhere I went, he followed. If I was leaving the house for anything other than work, chances are he was coming with me. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom or take a shower without him banging on the door to let him in. I know some people that loathe that type of attention from their kids. “I can’t get 5 fucking minutes alone,” they say. But I didn’t mind it. We were inseparable. He was literally my shadow. And I cherished every second of it even before he went to heaven.
And then in an instant, he was gone forever. I left for less than 24 hours and he was gone before I could get home. By the time I got to the hospital, he was already completely brain dead. When I left the house Friday morning everything was fine. He was his normal witty self playing possum in his bed as I tip-toed into his room to give him a kiss goodbye. As I crept closer to his bed, he sprang up and asked, “Dad, what’s going on?!?” I shared my normal goodbye big squeeze, kiss, and “I love you.” I’m lucky in the sense that I have a loving embrace and a kiss goodbye as my last physical interaction with him. I also had one last phone call where I got to hear, “I love you Daddy.” Vanessa was wrestling with him most of the night after dinner and before bed. Everything was normal but he would never be the same after he fell asleep. Unfortunately, Vanessa was not as lucky to have a good memory of her last interaction with Char. She had to watch him have multiple seizures, code in the ER, and slip into a catatonic state right before her eyes. I would do anything in the world to remove those hours that are forever burned into her psyche.
I’d tell you to try to imagine how it feels to go from having a perfectly healthy and vibrant son one day to having a son that is completely brain dead the next day but that is impossible to comprehend unless it’s happened to you. You have no idea how it feels and I hope you never do. Charlie going to heaven has monumentally changed us forever and we need your understanding and support. To those who have shied away from or even avoided us, I know we’re uncomfortable to be around but think about how we feel. Take your discomfort and multiply it by a billion. . . you’re still nowhere close to how we feel. To those who want the “old us” back, I’m sorry to tell you that those people are gone and “just getting back out there” won’t fix anything. In fact, jumping into some of our “old normal” activities is extremely hard and sometimes we just can’t do it. If you do know this feeling. This feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut over and over again, I am sorry for your loss and I share your pain and grief.
This void in my soul. This hole in my heart. It will NEVER be filled. He was a piece of my heart and soul and now he’s gone. No matter how many books I read, how many times I go to church, or how many support groups I go to it will ALWAYS remain empty. The only way it could be filled is if Char came strolling into my bedroom tomorrow morning to kick me out of his spot on my bed to watch cartoons and that is not happening. This darkness surrounding us, however, can be lifted. We can work through this part of our lives and learn to carry our grief with dignity and pride. We can lead a fulfilling life full of love and laughter. Just like Char would want us to. I miss him so much it’s scary. It makes me wonder if I miss him more than I love him. Or if they’re one in the same.