“There is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness. . . of something amiss.”
– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I wake up thinking about my dead son. I go to sleep thinking about my dead son. Every thought, decision, and reaction spread throughout each day are all doused in the soul numbing reality that my son Charlie is dead. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing; Charlie not being with me is all that I’m thinking about. Some people try to tell me that time heals all wounds. None of these people have felt their child die in their arms.
Do you know what I miss the most? His shoes being left in the middle of the front hallway. His Spiderman underwear on the floor of the bathroom when I go take a shower before work. When he would pronounce the letter “L” like it was a “W” and correct himself immediately. “NOT wwwoo-otion, Daddy. Lllloo-tion.” When we’d fight about me not letting him climb on top of the toilet to reach the sink to wash his hands after he went potty. I miss showing him off at people’s parties and at restaurants. I miss when he would drop the “f-bomb” in perfect context- totally my influence– and then put himself into a timeout- totally Vanessa’s influence. When he’d follow behind me with his lawnmower to, “make sure he got the spots I missed.” When he’d beg me to jump off that fucking diving board.
Intellectually, I understand how “time heals all wounds” but my emotions will not allow that train of thought. And truthfully, I don’t want to ever get “there.” The only thing time has done is take me farther away from Charlie and that is not what I want. I miss the feel of his sinewy body wrapped around me as I held him. He would gently dig his heels into me and hold onto my thumb as I carried him around. I miss the sound of his raspy and melodic voice. I miss his penetrating brown eyes that were filled with love and wonder. There is so much more about him that I miss but fear I’ve already forgotten. Those “15 second” interactions that made up our life together have slowly and unwantedly faded from my memory.
When I started this blog my original intention was to share stories about Charlie and his beautiful life. He was such a great kid with a pure heart. He was tender, gentle, and loving. Instead of giving his sports’ class coach a high five like everyone else, Charlie had to give him a hug too. He loved to sing songs, read books, and do puzzles. Char could sing his ABC’s before he was two and his vocabulary rivaled that of most 4 year olds. He was an engagd and protective older brother. Always quick to get a diaper, bottle or pacifier to stop Danny from, “ccwwwying. Not ccwwwying, Daddy. Cccrryying.” I remember one time walking in on him trying to feed Danny his yogurt because, “Danno told me he was hungry so I gave him my yogurt.” He shared, took his turn, and always said his “please and thank-yous.” He would look at other kids who yelled, “Mine!”, like they were crazy. (Full disclosure: Danno yells, “mine.” A lot. And hits people. And throws things at their faces. “The Shark” cannot be stopped. He can only sometimes be contained.)
There will be no more memories made with Charlie. We will always be “less one” no matter what we’re doing. Vacations, eating out, and going to the zoo. Going on walks, doing yard work, and going to the pool. Responding to e-vites, signing thank you cards, and sending future holiday cards. (We didn’t send one out last year. We weren’t having a Happy Holiday season so why fake it?) We’re a family of five physically represented by only four. Why send out a card with a picture of an incomplete family on it?
What most people may think provides me a respite from my grief is what actually makes me hurt even more- living children. Especially mine. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve begun to call Danny by Charlie’s name. I can’t look at Danny without seeing Charlie. My stomach hits the floor when I walk into a room and see Dan because he looks exactly like Charlie. I’ll catch a quick glimpse of Dan and there’s a brief instance when I seriously think I’m looking at Charlie. A chill spreads over my body as I feel that void in my soul swallow me whole.
It always feels like something is amiss. Nothing ever feels right or complete. I’ve read that amputees can feel pain in their amputated limbs. This sensation is called “phantom limb”. Instead of having a phantom limb, I have a phantom soul. I am constantly hurting. It does not matter what I am doing or who I am with, Charlie’s absence is what I am thinking about. There is no hiding from it. There is no disguising it. There is no sugar-coating it. Charlie is dead. He is not here. This little boy filled with love and promise is gone forever and all I’m left with are memories, pictures, and videos. And pain. And guilt. And anger. And sadness.
The worst kind of loss is the death of your child. Your hopes and plans for the future get smashed. The constant and unrelenting pain of their absence is tangible. The sleepless nights and depression take an emotional, mental and physical toll on you and those that love you. You feel alone, isolated and hopeless. You feel broken and incomplete. There is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness. “This I learned without wanting. Holding my brow,” One Sunday Morning by Wilco.