Grief is like a noose. When I don’t write, it gets tighter and tighter. It’s slow, like a sneaky python, and I don’t realize how much I need to write until I notice that I’ve been writing in my head for weeks. My brain makes up different topics and I start writing and editing constantly while producing nothing at all. If I’m not taking care of Floyd, I’m playing with my daughter, or giving our cat medication, or doing housework, or, as of next week, going back to work. But I can’t make excuses anymore, because as I have no time for a therapist, this is where it all has to go down.
Floyd is tremendously amazing. He is magical. He is a perfect combination of my daughter and Jay, while also completely and totally his own little self. I am so in love with him. He is only a few months old and I can’t imagine our life without him.
I spoke to someone yesterday on the phone about having Floyd. We discussed how there are likely many people I know, even ones I consider good friends, who simply think we had a baby to replace Jay. After I hung up, I realized how much the conversation really bothered me. It doesn’t matter what other people think, I know this. But it bothered me not because they are jerks, it’s because they simply don’t understand.
Most people who might feel this way don’t know us well enough. They don’t know that we still sleep with Jay’s coat in our bed. They are unaware that my husband does not pack his suitcase for business trips without including Jay’s tiny plastic farm animal that he liked to chew on. They don’t know that the lantern in our kitchen is lit every few nights, a lighthouse of sorts to show Jay the way home. They do not see me donating money in Jay’s name for every department store sponsored charity for the simple pleasure of seeing his name written anywhere. They do not see the rare moments I am alone with Floyd’s closet open, inhaling Jay’s old sweaters. Some of those sweaters were hung up in haste, without washing them first. There are bits of dried food from over a year ago on them at the end of the sleeve. I run my fingers across this bas-relief evidence of an old life. Pathetic perhaps, but I grip that evidence with both hands because even traces of food that he ate is nothing short of magical, like finding Peter Pan’s shadow.
I never boxed up Jay’s clothes. They remain in the closet in the bedroom that now belongs to Floyd. It was only a few days ago that I removed his hooded doggy bath towel from a hook on the back of the door. I smelled the hell out of it before I carefully folded it and put it in the bottom of the dresser. “He won’t need it,” I told myself. “He will never take a bath again.” But the simple act of taking it down was still sad, somehow yet another nail in a long buried coffin. I have three kids, not two, and I can’t ever stop correcting anyone who assumes differently. So you see, regardless of the endless amount of love you can show any number of children you have, there can never be a replacement of a human being. And thank goodness for that, for if you could replace one human being with another, there would be no reason to live, as love would not truly exist.
Last night as I put Floyd down for the night, I grappled with the great mystery of dressing a newborn for bedtime. Footy jammies? Maybe too hot. Long sleeve with no feet? Maybe that’s too thick. I’m friggin’ terrified of SIDS. The exact thing I found appropriate was a pair of Jay’s jammies. I put those pajamas in the drawer before Floyd came, not knowing how I’d feel about dressing Floyd in Jay’s stuff. I knew it might be too weird but I decided to just see how things went. Some things I find are OK to use, some things are absolutely Jay’s and hold too many memories. This pair of jammies was one of the latter. It was getting warm at night. I decided to just put it on him and see how I felt.
The pajamas are dark red with the Puma logo all over them. They look exactly like something Ali G would wear. They come with an equally ridiculous matching hat. I put them on Floyd. “This was your brother’s,” I whispered. It was sad to see the jammies in action. I didn’t get any weird “This is Jay” vibe, though, and I decided that it would be OK, even if for just this one time.
We settled into the glider and I picked a few books to read. Jay was never much into books, preferring to chew on them instead, so much so that some of his faves were chewed down to the bare cardboard in some areas. I turned off the light and nursed him in the dark. I surveyed the bedroom, taking note of the things we changed to make the room really Floyd’s bedroom instead of “Jay’s old room.” My eyes fell on the hook on the back of the door, where Floyd’s hooded lion towel hung. It was a beautiful gift from a friend, with Floyd’s name embroidered on the back. I thought about Jay’s doggy towel, now in a drawer. I imagined what someone would think if they knew that, just days before, Jay’s towel hung right there, and how it’s been replaced with Floyd’s towel. I closed my eyes. People aren’t towels.