My son, Jack Russo, died on January 15, 2009. It is nearly impossible for me to write that without getting tearful. I’ve celebrated 2 Christmas holidays, his birthday twice. I’m designing this year’s Christmas card. I started putting Jack in the card the first Christmas after he died. It was hard to draw his face without a sense of abject loss. As I drew, I talked to him. That helped. Easier the next year. And this year? Hard again. Funny how that happens.
There are so many things that have changed since he died.
He has a new baby nephew, Travis, who was born on his birthday in 2009. The house has been re-painted. I had been planning the paint job before he died. I wanted the house painted pale pink or blue. He said that would be okay but it would look like a Smurf house. It’s pink today, but no Smurfs have come looking for a room.
His cat, Ginger, died in November, 2009. She was a 6 toed long-haired calico who showed up at the house the November after John died and claimed us as her own. She used to curl up around his nappy hair and groom him as he slept.
His lab mix Jewel (Jewelly-bug) died in May, 2010. He brought her home as a puppy in 1997 with the words, “A man’s selling her for free. Can we keep her?” I was newly sober and sure that John would say no, but he said a little boy needs a dog. It had been her habit to wait up for him, sit with him as he networked on the computer, lie next to his chair on the back porch. I think she mourned him until the day she died.
I got into a relationship about a year or so after he died. I’d made a pig’s breakfast out of relationships as a single parent when Georgie was young. In sobriety, I was more careful about introducing him to my dates. I got nearly instant feedback. (“Him, Mom? I sure hope you aren’t thinking about getting serious with HIM?”) The exception was my friend, Bill, but I think that might have been partially because he liked Bill’s daughter, Mary. (“If you married Bill, we’d have a fun family.”) I’m not sure what he would have thought about Bob. (“I guess it’s true that women like bad boys, Mom.”)
Jack’s favorite celebrations-Halloween and April Fool’s Day-have come and gone, shadows of what they were when his silliness heightened the days’ fun. No food coloring in the shower head, no rubber banded kitchen sprayer to shower me with water when I filled the coffee pot on April 1. I didn’t have to go re-sale shopping to help him put together a costume on October 31.
There were, of course, downsides. Jack was 20 when he died and not perfect by any means. I can’t romanticize the life of my child, but I would go through every problem we had multiplied by 1,000 to be able to go through every problem we had again.
I visited his My Space site yesterday. That was social networking for him in 2009. I compulsively went there in the few months after his death. Do people remember him? Do his friends still post to his page? Yes and yes. I got a little obsessive and I stopped. Until yesterday. I had forgotten his self-styled persona: Jack the God-King. His multiple choice description of himself: Jack is…(a) pure sex; (b) beautiful; (c) sugary goodness; (d) all of the above. His home town: “Part of me wants to say……your pants.”
Not necessarily for Mom’s eyes.
I realized that my birthday, October 12, is the 1,000th day since Jack died. That seems like a significantly huge number. How can time have passed like that? The day looms larger than my birthday. When you lose someone you love, you think time should just stop. No more holidays. No week-ends. No time off. Grief is a full time job. I don’t know when it became part time.
I stopped waking every morning with a sense of dread that the sun could rise in a world without my child. I still have days when I’m surprised that the world continues to exist. Today, they don’t usually come back to back. I have to take myself out of those days. There’s no work or play that can distract. Nor should it.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” (Kahlil Gibran)