The only constant in life is change. Sometimes change is subtle and unnoticeable. Other times it’s traumatic and life altering. Sometimes change is welcomed and happy while sometimes it is unwanted and sad. But the bottom line is, there is nothing permanent but change. I know this all too well now. Change has disemboweled me and all I’m left with are the innards of my heart and soul chaotically strewn across the universe. I’m frantically trying to pull them back together but some are gone forever and others are too heavy to lift. At least they are right now.
I am struggling with change. Make no mistake about it, I am struggling. I struggle to pull myself out of bed every morning to face another day without my Charlie. I struggle to maintain a stiff upper lip whenever you honestly ask me, “How are you doing?” I probably say “ok” or “fine” but I’m letting you know right now that am I anything but “ok.” I struggle knowing that I am now a part of your daily thoughts, conversations, and prayers. I recently ran into an acquaintance. This person was with some people I did not know. We exchanged the typical pleasantries and I went on my way. As I walked away, I turned back around and saw the sullen looks on the faces of the people who did not know me. They were obviously just informed of who I am- the dad who suddenly and unexpectedly lost his healthy son. The frequency and manner in which people talk about me has changed. Do you know your brother’s friend who works with this girl that went to high school with this guy whose son unexpectedly died? That’s me. I’m a fucking urban legend now. And I struggle with that everyday.
I am struggling. I am struggling with letting go and allowing change to flow. The picture on my phone’s background is unchanged. The picture on my desk at work is unchanged. Charlie’s bedroom is unchanged. His jacket and shoes are still in the front hall closet. The dual stroller is in the same spot of the garage ready to be used. I find the dual stroller to be especially heart breaking. We go on walks everyday and we were barely able to use it with Char. I was so excited for the change of strollers come spring time. Now everytime I see it I want to smash into a thousand pieces.
I am struggling. I am even struggling with the good types of change because it feels like they’re taking me farther away from Charlie. I watch Danny plow through the first year of milestones and all I can think about is Charlie not being here to help his younger brother through these. His absence is magnified everytime Danno crawls up the stairs, walks along the couch, or gives us a kiss when asked. As he’s getting older, Danny is looking more and more like Char. This change is spooky for us. The two of them are dead ringers with the exception of Danny’s hazel eyes and his size. At ten months, Danno is at least four pounds heavier and two inches longer than Charlie was at one year. But the facial structure, mannerisms, and aura are virtually the same. Or maybe I want them to be the same? I don’t even know anymore. I just miss Charlie so much. I remember soon after Charlie went to heaven me wanting Danny to stop being a 4 month old and be a sweet, wise-cracking, and engaging 2.5 year old. I wanted him to change. I needed that interaction I cherished with Charlie. As Danno and I are continuing to strengthen our bond it makes me feel guilty b/c I keep feeling more removed from Char. It’s a change that I once craved and now it’s a change that I fear. I’m afraid that I will always crave and fear change equally because I want to live a life filled with love and laughter but I fear that with each laugh and new change I move further away from Charlie.
I am struggling with both the unwanted and the sought after types of change. I’ve been through more than a lifetime’s worth of change the past 7 months. I was force-fed one that bored a hole through my heart and soul. And now there’s another life-altering change coming that I don’t know how to tell you so I’m going to tell Charlie:
“Hi Daddy. Where have you been? I haven’t heard from you in a while.”
“I know. I’m sorry Char. I’ve been struggling pretty bad lately. All of this change in my life has been tough for me to carry. I need to tell you something that’s been weighing heavily on me. But you need to promise me that you know my love for you will never diminish or waver. Everything I do, I do in your honor. I love you so much and miss you even more.”
“Daddy, remember, you’ll always be my Dad and I will always be your son. I will always love you and I’m up here watching and waiting for you. I feel your pain and I wish I could somehow ease it. I know about everything and I know how hard it is for you to tell me what it is you need to tell me.”
“Yeah, it’s part of the deal. While I’m physically gone I am eternally in your being, in your soul. So I know everything. You need to know that I’m going to help you. I’m going to help Mommy, Danny, and you live lives full of love. I know you’re nervous about the next big change and how it might make you feel like you’re moving away from me but I need you to know that I know you will never move away. And I can’t wait to be a big brother. Again.”