Is It?

‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

From In Memoriam:27, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

*

He was due in winter. I’d bought the smallest pair of socks for when we left the hospital. They’re in my drawer now. Danny never saw them or he’d have said to put them with the rest. I need to keep them. I don’t know why.

When we left the hospital, Danny says there was snow but I don’t remember. I wish I did – I’ve always like the peace of snow.

I wish it wasn’t so quiet in this house.

~

“Daddy is an angel,” she told me, when Caroline left the room. And that’s what made me cry. I’d got through all the condolences and services and sympathetic shoulder squeezing and it was my granddaughter’s fiction that had brought me undone. For a moment, I wished I could renounce my atheism and reclaim the relief of heaven for my son. But I hadn’t even believed when I was an altar boy. But I was Chloe’s favourite storyteller.

“With wings, do you think?”

“Of course – they all have wings. Otherwise they’d fall through the clouds. … Mummy says we should think of him smiling.”

“He smiled a lot.”

“He’s a good smiler. I think it’s all the teeth.”

“He had great teeth. Used to bite my finger with the first lot when he was a baby.”

“Daddy wasn’t a baby.”

“He was my baby, Chloe … my smiling baby.” And I hugged the precious soul that my dear son had left with us.

~

Januarys are hard. They don’t get easier even though people said they would. People who didn’t love her the way that I did. People who didn’t know her for what she was. I was the lucky one who had all of her. So I lost all of her. And so much of me. Gone.
Still raw. Always raw.
Severed.
Minus.
Empty.
This is who I am now.

~

We both saw it coming. The silences were longer and the talking was more fractious than even neutral. We didn’t drift apart so much as take several determined paces after every argument. But when it came down to it and we began to acknowledge the end, we couldn’t help but look back on how it had been when it was good. So we tried again – to reignite the shared jokes, the gentle gestures, the fresh revelations. But those don’t work when they’re not natural, when there’s a shared rollercoaster that can’t be unridden. The beauty of beginnings is that they fit into a slice of time that turns to water and slips through your fingers. So finally we saw it for what it was. Over. And we were both sad. Because some people seemed able to catch that water and make it last through deserts and droughts. Or perhaps chance upon a new supply from deeper beneath the surface. But not us. So he left. And I saw him everywhere for a while … even though he’d moved away. But now days pass and he’s not in them. And when he appears briefly, sometimes I smile.

 

~

My voice is gone. Pulled out of me by her as she swept away into … wherever.

I want to cry and scream but I pull at my throat to hold it back. Because if it starts, it will never stop. And I will be only Voice. Inverted from the automaton that walks the days to become pure shrieking emotion.

I am not me. Or am I more me that I ever was? (Pretending finally aside.)

But I am not what I want to be. What I can tolerate.
I can’t live like a gaping wound.
It’s too much.
And I am too little.

~

I remember Jeremy’s arms around my neck in the water. His panting toothy grin as we splashed up and down. He was always so happy. Not just then. All the time.

I looked at other fathers who weren’t pushing themselves to relish every second the way that I did – they couldn’t, they seemed to have infinity and I had the closest that doctors can get to finite. So I laughed genuinely along with his cheerful bark and took in the glow of his drenched clean skin, alive with joy and water. And I felt it. Every breath. Every sound. Each look and moment. And I swallowed them so deeply that they’re with me now. So I remember Jeremy’s arms around my neck in the water. His panting toothy grin as we splashed up and down. And I feel his happiness. So much that it almost becomes my own.

.

*

‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

.

 

Is it?

.

.


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